What Is an Intangible Asset?

What Is an Intangible Asset?

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

An intangible asset is a type of asset that is not physical in nature. Unlike physical assets like buildings, machinery, or equipment, intangible assets have no concrete form. Examples of intangible assets include patents, copyrights, franchises, goodwill, trademarks, and trade names. These assets contribute to the potential future benefits of a company, usually through revenue generation, enhancing customer perception, or giving a competitive edge over rivals in the business.

Related Questions

1. How do companies value intangible assets?

Valuation of intangible assets can be complex. Typically, it involves estimating the expected future cash flows the assets will generate, then discounting those cash flows back to present value. Different methods may be applied, depending on the nature of the asset and the availability of information.

2. How do intangible assets appear on the balance sheet?

Want More Financial Tips?

Get Our Best Stuff First (for FREE)
We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe anytime.

Intangible assets typically appear on a company’s balance sheet as long-term assets. They may be grouped together under a single line item, or they may be listed separately, depending on their nature and the company’s accounting practices.

3. Why are intangible assets important?

Intangible assets are critical because they can generate substantial economic benefits for a company. They can help improve a company’s performance, secure competitive advantages, and enhance customer relationships.

4. Can intangible assets be depreciated?

Unlike tangible assets, intangible assets are not subject to physical wear and tear. However, their value may decline over time due to legal, technological, or market changes. This decline in value is accounted for through a process called amortization, rather than depreciation.

5. What is an example of an intangible asset?

One common example of an intangible asset is a patent. A patent gives its holder the exclusive right to produce, sell, or use a particular invention for a set period. This can provide a significant competitive advantage, and thus, be a source of value for the company.