The broad scope of “intellectual property” (IP) laws protects United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) registered ideas in the form of copyrights, patents, and trademarks. With the rapid expansion of technological innovation at the global level, the growth of statutory and legislative rule elements in this area of law has been remarkable. Estate law and its ability to protect the IP rights of inventors, artists, and authors, is now also applied to the rights of heirs and beneficiaries gifted intellectual property by way of inheritance. Estates without a will are subject to probate court proceeding. Intellectual property included in an estate will be divided according to a plan drafted by state legislature where the estate is held.
Transfer by Bequest
If a will has been written before a decedent has died, the transfer of intellectual property rights will be performed at the bequest of the owner in a written estate planning document. Bequests traditionally written to transfer tangible personal and real property, are now drafted with language that allows for the inclusion of intellectual property rights. Depending on the intent of the Decedent, the estate may also be structured to designate intellectual property assets separately in a “residuary estate” to be subsequently divided among its beneficiaries, rather than accorded specific heirs.