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Capital Gains – Intellectual Properties  

capital gains on patents

Capital Gains May Be Available For The Transfer Of Intellectual Property Rights

A capital gains tax rate for the transfer of Intellectual Property is available if the transfer of Intellectual Property rights is carefully planned.

Patent Rights are not Accorded Capital Gains Status – Unless…

26 I.R.C. 1221 – Capital Asset, in part, reads:

(a)    In General

For purposes of this subtitle, the term “capital asset” means property held by the taxpayer (whether or not connected with his trade or business), but does not include –

(3) a patent, invention, model or design (whether or not patented), a secret formula or process, a copyright, a literary, a musical/artistic composition, a letter or memorandum, or similar property, held by—

                    (A)    a taxpayer whose personal efforts created such property,

                    (B)    in the case of a letter, memorandum, or similar property, a taxpayer for whom such property was prepared or produced, or

                    (C)    a taxpayer in whose hands the basis of such property is determined, for purposes of determining gain from a sale or exchange, in whole or part by reference to the basis of such property in the hands of a taxpayer described in subparagraph (A) or (B)

Situation 1 – Patent Capital Asset

Joe was the founder of his company JoeCo. Over the years, Joe was the inventor of several Patents for the products sold by JoeCo. After 40 years in business, Joe was seeking buyers for JoeCo. AcquireCo purchased JoeCo and all assets and liabilities.

Joe can treat this transfer of Patent rights as a capital asset because the U.S. Internal Revenue code also includes 26 I.R.C. 1235. When specific facts exist, the inventor’s Patents are capital assets taxed as capital gains.

26 I.R.C. 1235 – Sale or Exchange of Patent, in part, reads:

(a)    General    A transfer (other than by gift, inheritance, or devise) of property consisting of all substantial rights to a patent, or an undivided interest therein which includes a part of all such rights, by any holder shall be considered the sale or exchange of a capital asset held for more than 1 year, regardless of whether or not payments in consideration of such transfer are—

                     (1)     payable periodically over a period generally coterminous with the transferee’s use of the patent, or

                     (2)    contingent on the productivity, use, or disposition of the property transferred.

(b)    “Holder” defined For purposes of this section, the term “holder” means—

                    (1)     any individual whose efforts created such property, or

                    (2)    any other individual who has acquired his interest in such property in exchange for consideration in money or money’s worth paid to such creator prior to actual reduction to practice of the invention covered by the patent, if such individual is neither—

                    (A)    the employer of such creator, nor

                    (B)    related to such creator (within the meaning of subsection (c)).

Situation 2 – Intellectual Property Gains

Jill was a seamstress with talent for making and selling clothing designs that generated a comfortable living for her family. Jill was a sole proprietor and over the years received two Trademark Registrations for Jill’sThings®. After 40 years, Jill sold her business to AcquiringJack, LLC with a knack for scaling small businesses. 26 I.R.C. 1221 does not prevent Jill’sThings® from being classified as capital assets. Therefore, the sale of Jill’sThings® would be treated as capital gains.

Situation 3 – Patent Capital Asset

AcquiringJack, LLC purchased all rights associated with two JoeCo Patents previously sold to a third party. AcquiringJack LLC held the JoeCo Patents for 18 months and sold the JoeCo Patents to LastMinuteCharlie, Inc. AcquiringJack, LLC’s sale of the JoeCo Patents will be treated as capital gains.

Situation 4 – No Capital Gains

Second Fiddle was an individual who was a skilled guitarist and sufficiently talented to write original music. Over the years, Second Fiddle had received Copyright Registrations for some of his musical compositions. While on a regional tour with his band, the Fiddlers, a vice president of Big Break Inc. made Second Fiddle an offer he could not turn down for his Copyright Registrations.  Second Fiddle sold his Copyright Registrations to Big Break Inc. According to 26 I.R.C. 1221, a Copyright or musical score held by the creator is not a capital asset. Second Fiddle’s sale was taxed as ordinary income.

Situation 5 – Intellectual Property Capital Gains

Philharmonic Violin was an individual who played third violin with the orchestra. Although not as musically skilled as some other violinists in the orchestra, Philharmonic Violin wrote a few concertos and was granted some Copyrights for her efforts. Philharmonic Violin assigned her Copyrights to her company, Concertos LLC. On her lucky day, Philharmonic Violin arrived early for practice and was playing some of the supporting violin portions of her concertos. Big Director, the CEO of his production company, heard the portions of Philharmonic Violin’s concertos and told Philharmonic Violin that they were perfect for the score of one of his films. On that day, Big Director wrote a check payable to Concertos LLC. Because Concertos LLC rather than Philharmonic Violin received the payment, the payment will be taxed as a capital asset.

Business Patent Law, PLLC does not provide tax counsel. The above situations are only illustrative. Changes in the facts of a taxable situation can generate different applications of Title 26 Internal Revenue Code. Advance planning for taxable situations can reduce the amount of taxes paid. For tax advice, please contact your tax advisor.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.  If you need assistance, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

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