Knowledge Protection – Fiduciary Responsibilities For Intangible Assets

C-suites, directors and officers (D&O’s) are obligated now to achieve a level of familiarity with intangible assets that enables them to practice consistent and timely stewardship, oversight, management, and monitoring to, among other things: ensure control, use, ownership, and value (of the assets) is sustained throughout the assets’ respective life-value-functional cycle…bundle – position the assets to maximize and extract as much value as possible private wealth management.

Two additional, and perhaps larger points are worthy of making. First, intangible assets are not the sole province of large, multi-national corporations. Rather, intangible assets are truly embedded in most every company, ranging from start-ups and spin-off’s to SME’s (small, medium enterprises) as well as mature and maturing firms. Intangible assets have little, if virtually nothing to do with a company’s size. Granted though, larger companies tend to produce – possess a broader range of intangible assets, but, their contribution to value, revenue, and sustainability are likely to be proportionately similar.

Second, most issues today related to – affecting a company’s intangible assets have moved from merely being voluntary (managerial discretion) to truly constituting a fiduciary responsibility! In other words, ‘managing and management’ in their most basic sense, now include recognizing, assessing, and ultimately ensuring control, use, ownership, and value of a company’s intangible assets is sustained.

A significant percentage of company management teams may not, as yet, have the inclination or perhaps expertise to actually execute those fiduciary obligations. Without clearer and consistently viable and lucrative pathways to achieve profitably from (utilizing) intangible assets, it’s likely many business decision makers and D&O’s, save for the truly forward looking, will continue to express skepticism, reluctance, and/or be outright dismissive of pitches regarding the potential ‘business viability’ of intangibles because: the resources and time required to manage (identify, unravel, extract value from) intangible assets is perceived as an expense rather than an investment, the product of which, can literally walk out the front door and be taken to – acquired by a competitor…building a managerial culture (from scratch) to utilize – exploit intangibles is often perceived as being subjective, esoteric, and plagued by inconsistencies in the valuation and accounting of intangibles and there appear to be few pioneers in the financial-lending community, in light of the recession – financial crisis who are willing to come forward and advocate for intangible assets…data/information is often incomplete and the metrics are often varied and subjective insofar being able to consistently measure the performance of intangible assets in a sufficiently convincing manner to attract lenders and/or investors…there are risks associated with company’s becoming overly transparent (with respect to their intangible assets) relative to the growing probability (vulnerability) that competitors, raiders, taxing agencies, and/or trollers will use that information for nefarious purposes with adverse (economic, competitive advantage) affects/outcomes…

Even some seasoned business leaders find intangible assets conceptually challenging, to apply. Part of the challenge lies in the word itself, ‘intangible’. That is, intangible assets lack the conventional sense of physicality found in many assets, e.g., intangible (physical, brick and mortar) assets. Here are two examples, e.g., a business person: can literally see and touch the end product of an automobile manufacturing/assembly process. The array of intangible assets contributing to the production/assembly and ultimately sale of that automobile are largely intangible, and may be, relatively speaking, less recognized or overlooked insofar as their specific contribution to that end product, e.g., design, logistics, intellectual capital, trade secrets, intellectual property, brand, image, goodwill, contractual relations, etc.

Scroll to top