New York, New York—January 25, 2024—Addressing long-standing concerns around how intellectual property (IP) is valued and how that value is communicated, both internally within companies and externally beyond the company, the International Trademark Association (INTA) has published its 2022 Presidential Task Force (PTF) Report, Intellectual Property Reporting for Brands.
Today, a company’s most valuable assets are its IP, including trademarks and brand-related assets. However, the “true” value of IP is often miscalculated or undervalued and, consequently, miscommunicated. Looking to address these interconnected concerns, 2022 INTA President Zeeger Vink (MF Brands Group, Switzerland) convened a PTF to study the issue and, through this Report, to provide INTA with a set of recommendations for how the Association can work to address this issue.
“As a community, we understand and appreciate the importance of IP for companies, but we still struggle to communicate this properly to society as a whole,” said Mr Vink. “How can we improve this? It starts with good IP reporting.”
“Let’s also not forget, IP is essential for the protection of innovative brands and in fostering consumer trust,” added Mr Vink. “Creating a standard to convey the importance of IP was of the utmost priority for the Task Force.”
The efforts of the PTF were focused on two primary workstreams, corporate IP reporting for brands, led by PTF Co-Chair Katie Sullivan (Whirlpool Properties, Inc., USA), and financial IP reporting for brands, led by PTF Co-Chair John Plumpe (Epsilon Economics, USA).
The former identified existing global practices of IP reporting and drafted guidelines for corporate brand IP reporting. The PTF recommended that the Association publish and promote these guidelines, which are provided in the Report.
“The objective is to increase awareness both internally and externally about the value of a company’s IP,” said Ms Sullivan. “Because of the lack of documented standard practices in this area, it was important for us to enhance communication on the commercial, financial, and legal value of brands.”
Corporate and financial IP reporting share similar goals: to inform stakeholders about the existence and value of IP assets, and their contribution to business success. However, unlike corporate IP reporting, financial IP reporting is subject to a variety of rules and regulations worldwide. Importantly, under current international accounting rules, the values of intangible assets associated with internally developed or homegrown brands cannot be included on the corporate balance sheet. As noted in the Report, “[t]he effect of this blanket exclusion is that significant aspects of companies’ values remain unreported.”
Underscoring this issue, a recent study by IP consultancy Ocean Tomo found that the share of intangible asset market value in companies in the S&P 500 increased from 68 percent to 90 percent between 1995 and 2020. In other words, IP accounts for 90 percent of a company’s overall value.
“The existing financial reporting framework excludes internally developed trademarks from being recognized as intangible assets. As a consequence, the company may be undervalued based on the balance sheet and a significant portion of the economy remains undisclosed,” remarked Mr Plumpe. “The Task Force takes the position on behalf of INTA that international accounting standards should not prevent internally developed brand related-IP from being reported as intangible assets.”
The Report aligns with the Association’s 2022–2025 Strategic Plan and more specifically its directive to “Promote and Reinforce the Value of Brands,” through which the Association has committed to providing its members with tools and research that demonstrate brand value and to showing how IP impacts that value.
“IP reporting is increasingly impacting the practice of IP professionals across all industries and can constitute a competitive advantage for businesses and their IP departments,” said INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo, who lauded the PTF’s work: “This Task Force has conducted substantial research on behalf of the INTA community. The Report will serve as a formidable foundation for the Association to continue advancing the value of brands and supporting our members globally.”
INTA will use the Report recommendations to better educate the membership on IP reporting and will pursue engagement with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation/International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). INTA’s Commercialization of Brands Committee will continue the work of the PTF around brand valuation.
Download the Presidential Task Force Report on Intellectual Property Reporting for Brands.
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