For innovation-focused companies, intangible assets have assumed an unprecedented role in shaping their value. These immensely valuable assets encompass a spectrum of holdings, including patents, trademarks, customer data, and proprietary software. 

Over the past four decades, the ascendancy of intangible assets has been nothing short of a revolution. Their share of value has tripled, asserting their dominance and permanence in the corporate landscape, signaling a resolute departure from the industrial age in favor of an innovation-driven economy. Recent studies underscore the seismic shift – as of 2020, intangible assets comprise a staggering 90% of the market value of the entire S&P 500. In tangible figures, this translates to an extraordinary valuation of over $21 trillion in this index alone, surpassing the worth of physical holdings such as real estate and equipment by a remarkable fivefold.

Business people at desk with paperwork

On a global scale, a recent report projects a total global value of $74 trillion, marking a 23% increase from 2019. Looking ahead, these projections forecast the global value of intangible assets to reach a staggering $1 quadrillion by 2050.

Given the ever-increasing significance of intangible assets as the primary catalyst for innovation companies’ growth, comprehending the value of your intellectual property is now a more vital pursuit than ever before. In this article, we’ll explore the meaning and importance of intellectual property valuation; discuss several IP valuation methods a specialist IP counsel may help your company use to assess the worth of these assets; and illustrate the various scenarios when understanding the value of your intellectual property is crucial to the viability of your enterprise.

What is IP Valuation?

Valuing your IP portfolio is a complex process involving innovation stakeholders within your company, IP legal experts, and the use of specialized software tools that can help assess the monetary value of your intellectual property. Formal valuations usually occur during significant events like M&A, but continuous awareness of your IP’s worth is crucial.

Understanding your IP’s value is fundamental in portfolio management, however there is no one-size-fits-all approach to IP valuation as it varies with many factors and business goals. Maintaining a consistent measurement standard is key for informed decision-making.

Patents and trademarks, for instance, require ongoing investment to maintain ownership rights. Understanding their individual value in relation to your overall business strategy will allow you to make key decisions like whether to maintain proprietary rights, explore licensing and sales for revenue, or abandon these rights.

As we’ll see below, the value of intangible assets varies based on the variety of monetization choices available in any given circumstance. A patent’s worth differs when used for licensing, raising capital, litigation, or in product development. Aligning your business and IP strategies is crucial to avoid wasting resources on assets that don’t support your business goals.

Assessing IP value considers various factors, including changing circumstances and evolving technology. Collaboration with IP legal counsel and the innovation stakeholders in your company is central to leverage and monetize your IP.

Why It’s Important to Value Intellectual Property

IP valuation isn’t merely a financial exercise. It’s a strategic tool that guides decision-making, fosters growth, and safeguards your intellectual property assets. Whether you’re navigating business transactions, protecting your innovations, or exploring opportunities, understanding the value of your IP is a fundamental aspect of success in today’s knowledge-driven economy.

Here’s why IP valuation holds such significance:

  1. Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): When undertaking a merger or acquisition transaction, IP valuation is a mandatory step. Acquiring companies need to understand the value of the intellectual property they are receiving in the deal, and the selling party must establish a fair price for their assets. Accurate IP valuation can mean the difference between a successful or failed deal.
  2. Selling, Licensing, and Commercial Engagements: When you aim to sell, license, or enter commercial agreements involving your IP, knowing its value is essential. It provides a solid foundation for negotiations, ensuring you receive fair compensation for your assets and establish equitable terms in partnerships. Likewise, if you are leveraging your IP in a licensing agreement, understanding its value is necessary for a strong negotiating position.
  3. Enforcing IP Rights: In the event of IP infringement, having a clear valuation of your IP is critical to building your case and pursuing compensation or damages. Courts may also consider the value of IP assets when determining penalties for the infringing parties. A well-documented valuation can strengthen your case and protect your rights effectively.

How to Value Intellectual Property: 3 Methodologies

There are several methodologies for valuing intellectual property, with each approach offering a different perspective on the asset’s worth. The choice of method depends on the nature of the IP and the specific goals of the valuation process. 

Income Method

The income method involves estimating the future income that the IP asset is expected to generate and then discounting these future cash flows to present value. The income method is often used for IP assets that generate revenue, such as patents or trademarks with royalty-bearing licensing agreements.

Overview: The income method is a relatively complex approach that requires in-depth financial analysis and forecasting. It accounts for the expected revenue streams and the risk associated with the IP asset, making it suitable for assets with already-established income streams.

Benefits: This method provides a comprehensive understanding of the potential financial benefits of the IP asset, allowing for more accurate pricing and decision-making.

Market Method

The market method determines the value of intellectual property by comparing it to similar IP assets that have been sold or licensed in the market. This method relies on the principle of supply and demand, using market transactions as benchmarks for valuation.

Overview: The market method is relatively simpler than the income method, as it focuses on historical data and market comparables. It is particularly useful when there is a well-established market for similar IP assets.

Benefits: This method provides a real-world context for valuing IP assets, as it reflects market dynamics and recent transactions, which can be useful in negotiations.

Cost Method

The cost method values intellectual property based on the cost incurred to create or replace it. It involves determining the historical cost of developing the IP asset and adjusting for factors like depreciation or obsolescence.

Overview: The cost method is straightforward but may not always reflect the true market value, especially for unique or highly innovative IP assets. It is often used for valuing copyrights, trade secrets, or patents with no established income stream.

Benefits: This method can provide a baseline valuation for intellectual property and is useful when historical cost data is readily available. Often, this method is used for tax savings purposes as opposed to leveraging or monetizing IP.

Understanding the Value of Your IP

When valuing intellectual property, there are at least two critical factors that can significantly impact its worth.


Exclusivity is a key determinant of the value of intellectual property. It refers to the extent to which the IP asset provides protection from competitors and allows the owner to enjoy unique market advantages. The more exclusive the IP, the more valuable it tends to be. For example, a patented technology that offers a competitive advantage in the market is likely to have a higher value than a generic, non-patented product.

Future Benefits

The potential for future benefits is another essential factor in IP valuation. This includes not only the current revenue generated by the IP but also the expected income streams in the future. IP assets that have a promising growth trajectory are typically valued higher than those with a stagnant or declining outlook. Businesses and investors are often willing to pay a premium for IP that promises sustained or increased profitability.

Key Benefits of IP Valuation

Valuing your intellectual property is not just about knowing its worth – it’s about unlocking your IP’s potential for growth, profitability, and protection. Having a working and ongoing understanding of your IP portfolio’s value provides your company a number of important benefits.

Here are some of the key advantages:

  • Secure Financing: IP valuation can help secure financing by using IP assets as collateral. Lenders are more likely to extend credit when they have a clear understanding of the value of the assets being used as collateral, as well as a clear picture of your company’s overall value with respect to your intangible asset holdings.
  • Attracting Partners: Partnerships and collaborations are often built on trust and mutual benefit. When you can demonstrate the value of your IP, you are more likely to attract partners who see the potential for growth and profitability. Those partnerships can also bring about favorable outcomes for your IP portfolio and provide opportunities to acquire new IP or leverage your existing assets.
  • Licensing and Franchising: Valuing your IP helps in setting appropriate licensing fees and franchise costs. It ensures that you receive fair compensation for the use of your intellectual property while maintaining the attractiveness of your offering to potential licensees or franchisees.
  • Settling Disputes: In the unfortunate event of IP-related disputes, valuation becomes essential. Knowing the value of your IP allows for fair settlements, either through negotiations or in legal proceedings. Disputes may be settled in a number of ways beyond legal decisions. Often, an infringement case is an opportunity for your company to acquire or license IP, increasing the value and strength of your portfolio. Knowing the value of the disputed IP can result in a variety of favorable outcomes for your company. 
  • Strategic Decision-Making: Intellectual property valuation provides crucial insights for strategic decision-making. Whether you are considering selling, licensing, or expanding your IP portfolio, a clear understanding of its worth helps you make informed choices. It also can play a role in other strategic decisions such as how to value an IPO, or how you plan your exit strategy in an M&A deal.
  • Tax Planning: Valuation of IP assets can have tax implications. Understanding the value of your IP helps in tax planning and can potentially lead to tax benefits.
  • Intellectual Property Portfolio Management: Effective IP valuation is a cornerstone of intellectual property portfolio management. It allows businesses to identify and prioritize valuable assets, divest underperforming ones, and strategize for future growth.

Final Thoughts

In an increasingly knowledge-driven economy, intellectual property is, by far, the most valuable asset an enterprise possesses. Understanding the value of your IP assets through a rigorous and ongoing regime of intellectual property valuation is a critical step in maximizing your portfolio’s potential. Whether you are involved in mergers and acquisitions, licensing, or simply want to protect your market share, maintaining an understanding of the worth of your intangible assets will allow you significant competitive advantages in your rapidly evolving marketplace.

Michael Dilworth

This article is for informational purposes, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and may be considered advertising under applicable state laws. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and are not necessarily shared by Dilworth IP, its other attorneys, agents, or staff, or its clients.