Examples of hidden assets are trademarks, patents and copyright, but employee expertise and specialist knowledge, customer databases, business models, designs, manufacturing processes, databases, internal manuals and descriptions of working methods can also be considered hidden assets. In addition to maximise the commercial benefits of hidden assets, they must be consciously managed. For example, trademarks and logotypes can be protected through trademark registration with PRV, designs can be protected through design protection, competence and specialist knowledge can be protected through agreements, and manufacturing processes can be protected through trade secrets or patents. Many hidden assets can be licensed out or sold, e.g. business models, customer databases and technology. A company’s hidden assets can also generate commercial benefits by attracting potential financers and collaboration partners.
A distinction is made between formal and non-formal methods for managing or protecting hidden assets. The formal methods of patent, trademark protection and design protection can also be registered with PRV. A fourth formal method is copyright, which is an automatic protection which cannot be registered. All formal methods are covered by intellectual property law and are therefore protected by law. Hidden assets which must be protected through informal methods, such as trade secrets and employment and assignment agreements, have no protection under intellectual property law and cannot be registered with PRV or any other authority. This does not mean that such hidden assets are less important; on the contrary, most of a company’s value can relate to such assets.
Test your business
In the test, we will help you identify your intangible assets: