By identifying and cataloguing critical IP assets owned by your company and the important role they play, buyers’ perception of value is increased from its initial balance-sheet only calculation. Buyers often focus their pricing/valuation on the risks associated with acquisition, and in IP-rich companies those risks frequently relate to:
- IP assets not being properly recorded or “locked down”
- Issues with software and risks regarding use of open-source code
- Threat of key people leaving and taking critical know-how (e.g., product recipes, source code, technical specs) with them without relevant controls and safeguards in place
- IP housekeeping issues which emerge during the process, and serve as evidence of possible further IP issues that may threaten the deal or give an excuse for purchaser “price chipping”
- IP value in joint ventures or partnerships which is often undervalued and the value needs to be outlined to the purchaser
A SWOT analysis on the key IP assets underpinning your company’s competitive advantage can inform and improve the valuation by:
- Recording any crucial trade secrets (e.g., an algorithm or decision tree, key data on sensor positioning, key properties of a surface material/technology, secret recipes, database architecture & analytics) that may exist, and protect them accordingly
- Implementing a trade secrets policy in order to protect non-patentable and crucial IP (e.g. product recipes), and incorporate appropriate terms around these trade secrets into employee contracts/procedures
- Recording critical know-how in a user friendly format (FAQs, best known method, technical libraries)
A buyer would normally value a target on typical financial model for the sector (x times turnover or EBITDA) and then price chip, discounting this for perceived risk.
Your company can de-risk an acquisition for a purchaser and make it easier for them to see why they should pay a premium for your business – i.e. by focusing on the IP assets that underpin your competitive advantage and are not reflected in the financials/balance sheet.