Office folder with inscription Intellectual Property

Can Intellectual Property Be Sold?

Ream Law Firm, L.L.C. Dec. 5, 2023

Navigating the complex world of intellectual property can be a daunting task, especially when you're considering selling your patents, trademarks, or copyrights. There are many nuances involved in this process, and understanding them is key to making informed decisions that will benefit you financially and legally.  

Attorney Dale J. Ream, of the Ream Law Firm, L.L.C., brings over 25 years of experience in patent prosecution and product development, providing valuable insights into the process of selling intellectual property. To schedule a meeting with him, contact his firm in Ottawa, Kansas. He works with clients throughout Kansas City, including Johnson County, Kansas, and Jackson County, Missouri.  

Can Intellectual Property Be Sold? 

When discussing whether intellectual property can be sold, it's important to note that copyrights, trademarks, and patents each have distinct rules and processes.  

In general, all three types of intellectual property can be sold or licensed to others for financial gain. However, the process for doing so differs depending on the type of protection involved.  

  • Copyrights protect creative works such as books, music, films, and computer software. They can be sold or transferred as long as there's a formalized written agreement in place. This is typically done through a Copyright Assignment Agreement, ensuring that the rights are legitimately transferred from one party to another. It's vital to make sure that the party selling the copyright is indeed the actual owner of the copyright being sold.  

  • Trademarks identify a particular business or product. The selling of trademarks is also possible, as long as they are actively used in commerce. However, an "intent to use" trademark application cannot be sold or transferred unless specific criteria are met. Trademarks can also be licensed, but the owner remains responsible for ensuring appropriate use and quality standards. 

  • Patents protect inventions and designs. Patents, while not directly profitable, can yield significant income through the sale of the invention or licensing of the patent rights. Some patent holders opt to create a selective licensing agreement with a single manufacturer, allowing them to retain ownership rights and monitor usage while generating income. 

Considerations When Selling or Licensing Your Intellectual Property 

Selling or licensing your intellectual property requires careful consideration of several factors. The following are examples of some key things to consider:  

  • Understand the current market demand for the goods or services associated with your intellectual property, as this can greatly impact its value.  

  • Your future goals are also important. Selling your intellectual property might provide immediate financial gain, but it also means giving up future profits. Licensing, on the other hand, allows you to retain ownership while potentially benefiting from ongoing profits. 

  • Pricing your intellectual property can be a complex process, as its value can quickly change and is often subjective. It's advisable to work with an experienced IP attorney like Dale J. Ream to accurately determine the value of your intellectual property based on market- and cost-based estimates, as well as the reputation and goodwill associated with your brand or invention.  

  • Finally, you must understand the implications of selling or licensing your intellectual property on your ownership rights. 

Pros and Cons of Selling 

When deciding to sell your intellectual property, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons. On the plus side, selling can provide immediate financial gain, eliminate future maintenance and renewal fees, and offer the chance to recoup initial registration costs.  

However, there are also drawbacks. For instance, you risk losing out on potential future profits if the intellectual property becomes highly successful. You also relinquish ownership rights and control over the intellectual property, and there's a risk that your intellectual property might not reach its full potential or be undervalued. 

Pros and Cons of Licensing 

Licensing your intellectual property can also have both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, licensing can provide a steady stream of income while allowing you to retain ownership rights and control over how your intellectual property is used. Additionally, licensing allows for greater flexibility in future business decisions. 

On the other hand, there's a risk that your licensee might not uphold quality standards or properly promote your intellectual property, potentially damaging its reputation. Additionally, licensing agreements can be complex and require ongoing monitoring to ensure that all parties are fulfilling their obligations. 

Consult a Patent Attorney 

With the right guidance, you can navigate the process of selling your intellectual property with confidence and ensure that your interests are protected every step of the way.  

Whether you're leaning toward selling your property or licensing it, it's crucial to consult with an experienced IP attorney like Dale J. Ream before making any decisions. His knowledge in patent prosecution and product development, paired with his understanding of the challenges faced by inventors, makes him an invaluable asset for anyone considering selling their intellectual property. Contact his Kansas City firm today to get the guidance you need.