Most people typically think about the same type of things when it comes to property division in a divorce settlement, namely, the house (or houses for the more well-heeled), vehicles, savings and retirement accounts, a business in some cases, furnishings, jewelry and other tangible items.
Many also need to be thinking of the intangibles, which means the intellectual property (“IP”) that may exist in a marriage. Quite often, IP rights can easily constitute the most valuable assets owned by one or both of the partners in a marriage, so it can be extremely costly to ignore them where they exist.
The obvious question: Who has them? Patently, most people don’t, but, increasingly, ever more people do.
What are they? A quick crash course highlights four basic types of IP — patents, trademarks, copyrights and royalties. Inventors often have patent rights. Authors and musicians often have copyrights. Business owners, architects and designers across a wide spectrum have trademark rights. Engineers frequently have a combination of IP rights.
In short, a great number of people commanding diverse backgrounds and exercising personal creativity in their professional endeavors might have intellectual property.
That needs to be paid attention to in a divorce proceeding, and a party with questions should not hesitate to contact an experienced family law attorney with an extensive background in property division matters.
Florida residents should note especially that Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that property and assets acquired during a marriage will be divided equitably. That means fairly, not necessarily half to each party. A property division attorney with knowledge of intellectual property can explain how the process works and how, potentially, IP rights fit into the mix.
Related Resource: Forbes, “The Big Things Celebrities Fight Most About When They Divorce — And Why You Should, Too” May 3, 2011