Category: Chapter VI: Special Considerations for Intangibles
Under Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention, where the conditions made or imposed in the use or transfer of intangibles between two associated enterprises differ from those that would be made between independent enterprises, then any profits that would, but for those conditions, have accrued to one of the enterprises, but, by reason of those conditions, have not so accrued, may be included in the profits of that enterprise and taxed accordingly.
The purpose of this Chapter VI is to provide guidance specially tailored to determining arm’s length conditions for transactions that involve the use or transfer of intangibles. Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention is concerned with the conditions of transactions between associated enterprises, not with assigning particular labels to such transactions. Consequently, the key consideration is whether a transaction conveys economic value from one associated enterprise to another, whether that benefit derives from tangible property, intangibles, services or other items or activities. An item or activity can convey economic value notwithstanding the fact that it may not be specifically addressed in Chapter VI. To the extent that an item or activity conveys economic value, it should be taken into account in the determination of arm’s length prices whether or not it constitutes an intangible within the meaning of paragraph 6.6.
The principles of Chapters I – III of these Guidelines apply equally to transactions involving intangibles and those transactions which do not. Under those principles, as is the case with other transfer pricing matters, the analysis of cases involving the use or transfer of intangibles should begin with a thorough identification of the commercial or financial relations between the associated enterprises and the conditions and economically relevant circumstances attaching to those relations in order that the actual transaction involving the use or transfer of intangibles is accurately delineated. The functional analysis should identify the functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed1 by each relevant member of the MNE group. In cases involving the use or transfer of intangibles, it is especially important to ground the functional analysis on an understanding of the MNE’s global business and the manner in which intangibles are used by the MNE to add or create value across the entire supply chain. Where necessary, the analysis should consider, within the framework of Section D.2 of Chapter I, whether independent parties would have entered into the arrangement and if so, the conditions that would have been agreed.
In order to determine arm’s length conditions for the use or transfer of intangibles it is important to perform a functional and comparability analysis in accordance with Section D. 1 of Chapter I, based on identifying the intangibles and associated risks in contractual arrangements and then supplementing the analysis through examination of the actual conduct of the parties based on the functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed, including control of important functions and economically significant risks. Accordingly the next section, Section A, provides guidance on identifying intangibles. Section B examines legal ownership and other contractual terms, together with guidance on the evaluation of the conduct of the parties based on functions, assets and risks. Section C outlines some typical scenarios involving intangibles, and Section D provides guidance on determining arm’s length conditions including the application of pricing methods and valuation techniques, and provides an approach to determining arm’s length conditions for a specific category of hard-to-value intangibles. Examples illustrating the guidance are contained in the Annex to this chapter.
Difficulties can arise in a transfer pricing analysis as a result of definitions of the term intangible that are either too narrow or too broad. If an overly narrow definition of the term intangible is applied, either taxpayers or governments may argue that certain items fall outside the definition and may therefore be transferred or used without separate compensation, even though such use or transfer would give rise to compensation in transactions between independent enterprises. If too broad a definition is applied, either taxpayers or governments may argue that the use or transfer of an item in transactions between associated enterprises should require compensation in circumstances where no such compensation would be provided in transactions between independent enterprises.
In these Guidelines, therefore, the word “intangible” is intended to address something which is not a physical asset or a financial asset, which is capable of being owned or controlled for use in commercial activities, and whose use or transfer would be compensated had it occurred in a transaction between independent parties in comparable circumstances. Rather than focusing on accounting or legal definitions, the thrust of a transfer pricing analysis in a case involving intangibles should be the determination of the conditions that would be agreed upon between independent parties for a comparable transaction.
Intangibles that are important to consider for transfer pricing purposes are not always recognised as intangible assets for accounting purposes. For example, costs associated with developing intangibles internally through expenditures such as research and development and advertising are sometimes expensed rather than capitalised for accounting purposes and the intangibles resulting from such expenditures therefore are not always reflected on the balance sheet. Such intangibles may nevertheless be used to generate significant economic value and may need to be considered for transfer pricing purposes. Furthermore, the enhancement to value that may arise from the complementary nature of a collection of intangibles when exploited together is not always reflected on the balance sheet. Accordingly, whether an item should be considered to be an intangible for transfer pricing purposes under Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention can be informed by its characterisation for accounting purposes, but will not be determined by such characterisation only. Furthermore, the determination that an item should be regarded as an intangible for transfer pricing purposes does not determine or follow from its characterisation for general tax purposes, as, for example, an expense or an amortisable asset.
The availability and extent of legal, contractual, or other forms of protection may affect the value of an item and the returns that should be attributed to it. The existence of such protection is not, however, a necessary condition for an item to be characterised as an intangible for transfer pricing purposes. Similarly, while some intangibles may be identified separately and transferred on a segregated basis, other intangibles may be transferred only in combination with other business assets. Therefore, separate transferability is not a necessary condition for an item to be characterised as an intangible for transfer pricing purposes.
It is important to distinguish intangibles from market conditions or local market circumstances. Features of a local market, such as the level of disposable income of households in that market or the size or relative competitiveness of the market are not capable of being owned or controlled. While in some circumstances they may affect the determination of an arm’s length price for a particular transaction and should be taken into account in a comparability analysis, they are not intangibles for the purposes of Chapter VI. See Section D.6 of Chapter I.
The identification of an item as an intangible is separate and distinct from the process for determining the price for the use or transfer of the item under the facts and circumstances of a given case. Depending on the industry sector and other facts specific to a particular case, exploitation of intangibles can account for either a large or small part of the MNE’s value creation. It should be emphasised that not all intangibles deserve compensation separate from the required payment for goods or services in all circumstances, and not all intangibles give rise to premium returns in all circumstances. For example, consider a situation in which an enterprise performs a service using non-unique know-how, where other comparable service providers have comparable know-how. In that case, even though know-how constitutes an intangible, it may be determined under the facts and circumstances that the know-how does not justify allocating a premium return to the enterprise, over and above normal returns earned by comparable independent providers of similar services that use comparable non-unique know-how. See Section D. 1.3 of Chapter I. See also paragraph 6.17 for a definition of “unique” intangibles.
Care should be taken in determining whether or when an intangible exists and whether an intangible has been used or transferred. For example, not all research and development expenditures produce or enhance an intangible, and not all marketing activities result in the creation or enhancement of an intangible.
In a transfer pricing analysis of a matter involving intangibles, it is important to identify the relevant intangibles with specificity. The functional analysis should identify the relevant intangibles at issue, the manner in which they contribute to the creation of value in the transactions under review, the important functions performed and specific risks assumed in connection with the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of the intangibles and the manner in which they interact with other intangibles, with tangible assets and with business operations to create value. While it may be appropriate to aggregate intangibles for the purpose of determining arm’s length conditions for the use or transfer of the intangibles in certain cases, it is not sufficient to suggest that vaguely specified or undifferentiated intangibles have an effect on arm’s length prices or other conditions. A thorough functional analysis, including an analysis of the importance of identified relevant intangibles in the MNE’s global business, should support the determination of arm’s length conditions.
The guidance contained in this chapter is intended to address transfer pricing matters exclusively. It is not intended to have relevance for other tax purposes. For example, the Commentary on Article 12 of the OECD Model Tax Convention contains a detailed discussion of the definition of royalties under that Article (paragraphs 8 to 19). The Article 12 definition of “royalties” is not intended to provide any guidance on whether, and if so at what price, the use or transfer of intangibles would be remunerated between independent parties. It is therefore not relevant for transfer pricing purposes. Moreover, the manner in which a transaction is characterised for transfer pricing purposes has no relevance to the question of whether a particular payment constitutes a royalty or may be subjected to withholding tax under Article 12. The concept of intangibles for transfer pricing purposes and the definition of royalties for purposes of Article 12 of the OECD Model Tax Convention are two different notions that do not need to be aligned. It may occur that a payment made between associated enterprises may be regarded as not constituting a royalty for purposes of Article 12, and nevertheless be treated for transfer pricing purposes as a payment to which the principles of this chapter may apply. Examples could include certain payments related to goodwill or ongoing concern value. It may also occur that a payment properly treated as a royalty under Article 12 of a relevant Treaty may not be made in remuneration for intangibles for purposes of this chapter. Examples could include certain payments for technical services. Similarly, the guidance in this chapter is not intended to have relevance for customs purposes.
The guidance in this chapter is also not relevant to recognition of income, capitalisation of intangible development costs, amortisation, or similar matters. Thus, for example, a country may choose not to impose tax on the transfer of particular types of intangibles under specified circumstances. Similarly, a country may not permit amortisation of the cost of certain acquired items that would be considered intangibles under the definitions in this chapter and whose transfer may be subjected to tax at the time of the transfer in the transferor’s country. It is recognised that inconsistencies between individual country laws regarding such matters can sometimes give rise to either double taxation or double non-taxation.
In discussions of transfer pricing issues related to intangibles, it is sometimes the case that various categories of intangibles are described and labels applied. Distinctions are sometimes made between trade intangibles and marketing intangibles, between “soft” intangibles and “hard” intangibles, between routine and non-routine intangibles, and between other classes and categories of intangibles. The approach contained in this chapter for determining arm’s length prices in cases involving intangibles does not turn on these categorisations. Accordingly, no attempt is made in these Guidelines to delineate with precision various classes or categories of intangibles or to prescribe outcomes that turn on such categories
Certain categories of intangibles are, however, commonly referred to in discussions of transfer pricing matters. To facilitate discussions, definitions of two such commonly used terms, “marketing intangibles” and “trade intangibles” are contained in the Glossary and referred to from time to time in the discussion in these Guidelines. It should be emphasised that generic references to marketing or trade intangibles do not relieve taxpayers or tax administrations from their obligation in a transfer pricing analysis to identify relevant intangibles with specificity, nor does the use of those terms suggest that a different approach should be applied in determining arm’s length conditions for transactions that involve either marketing intangibles or trade intangibles.
In certain instances these Guidelines refer to “unique and valuable” intangibles. “Unique and valuable” intangibles are those intangibles (i) that are not comparable to intangibles used by or available to parties to potentially comparable transactions, and (ii) whose use in business operations (e.g. manufacturing, provision of services, marketing, sales or administration) is expected to yield greater future economic benefits than would be expected in the absence of the intangible.
This section provides illustrations of items often considered in transfer pricing analyses involving intangibles. The illustrations are intended to clarify the provisions of Section A. 1., but this listing should not be used as a substitute for a detailed analysis. The illustrations are not intended to be comprehensive or to provide a complete listing of items that may or may not constitute intangibles. Numerous items not included in this listing of illustrations may be intangibles for transfer pricing purposes. The illustrations in this section should be adapted to the specific legal and regulatory environment that prevails in each country. Furthermore, the illustrations in this section should be considered and evaluated in the context of the comparability analysis (including the functional analysis) of the controlled transaction with the objective of better understanding how specific intangibles and items not treated as intangibles contribute to the creation of value in the context of the MNE’s global business. It should be emphasised that a generic reference to an item included in the list of illustrations does not relieve taxpayers or tax administrations from their obligation in a transfer pricing analysis to identify relevant intangibles with specificity based on the guidance of Section A. 1.
A patent is a legal instrument that grants an exclusive right to its owner to use a given invention for a limited period of time within a specific geography. A patent may relate to a physical object or to a process. Patentable inventions are often developed through risky and costly research and development activities. In some circumstances, however, small research and development expenditures can lead to highly valuable patentable inventions. The developer of a patent may try to recover its development costs (and earn a return) through the sale of products covered by the patent, by licensing others to use the patented invention, or by an outright sale of the patent. The exclusivity granted by a patent may, under some circumstances, allow the patent owner to earn premium returns from the use of its invention. In other cases, a patented invention may provide cost advantages to the owner that are not available to competitors. In still other situations, patents may not provide a significant commercial advantage. Patents are intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1.
Know-how and trade secrets are proprietary information or knowledge that assist or improve a commercial activity, but that are not registered for protection in the manner of a patent or trademark. Know-how and trade secrets generally consist of undisclosed information of an industrial, commercial or scientific nature arising from previous experience, which has practical application in the operation of an enterprise. Know-how and trade secrets may relate to manufacturing, marketing, research and development, or any other commercial activity. The value of know-how and trade secrets is often dependent on the ability of the enterprise to preserve the confidentiality of the know-how or trade secret. In certain industries the disclosure of information necessary to obtain patent protection could assist competitors in developing alternative solutions. Accordingly, an enterprise may, for sound business reasons, choose not to register patentable know-how, which may nonetheless contribute substantially to the success of the enterprise. The confidential nature of know-how and trade secrets may be protected to some degree by (i) unfair competition or similar laws, (ii) employment contracts, and (iii) economic and technological barriers to competition. Know-how and trade secrets are intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1.
A trademark is a unique name, symbol, logo or picture that the owner may use to distinguish its products and services from those of other entities. Proprietary rights in trademarks are often confirmed through a registration system. The registered owner of a trademark may exclude others from using the trademark in a manner that would create confusion in the marketplace. A trademark registration may continue indefinitely if the trademark is continuously used and the registration appropriately renewed. Trademarks may be established for goods or services, and may apply to a single product or service, or to a line of products or services. Trademarks are perhaps most familiar at the consumer market level, but they are likely to be encountered at all market levels. Trademarks are intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1.
A trade name (often but not always the name of an enterprise) may have the same force of market penetration as a trademark and may indeed be registered in some specific form as a trademark. The trade names of certain MNEs may be readily recognised, and may be used in marketing a variety of goods and services. Trade names are intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1.
The term “brand” is sometimes used interchangeably with the terms “trademark” and “trade name.” In other contexts a brand is thought of as a trademark or trade name imbued with social and commercial significance. A brand may, in fact, represent a combination of intangibles and/or other items, including among others, trademarks, trade names, customer relationships, reputational characteristics, and goodwill. It may sometimes be difficult or impossible to segregate or separately transfer the various items contributing to brand value. A brand may consist of a single intangible, or a collection of intangibles, within the meaning of Section A. 1.
Government licences and concessions may be important to a particular business and can cover a wide range of business relationships. They may include, among others, a government grant of rights to exploit specific natural resources or public goods (e.g. a licence of bandwidth spectrum), or to carry on a specific business activity. Government licences and concessions are intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1. However, government licences and concessions should be distinguished from company registration obligations that are preconditions for doing business in a particular jurisdiction. Such obligations are not intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1.
Rights under contracts may also be important to a particular business and can cover a wide range of business relationships. They may include, among others, contracts with suppliers and key customers, and agreements to make available the services of one or more employees. Rights under contracts are intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1.
Limited rights in intangibles are commonly transferred by means of a licence or other similar contractual arrangement, whether written, oral or implied. Such licensed rights may be limited as to field of use, term of use, geography or in other ways. Such limited rights in intangibles are themselves intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1.
Depending on the context, the term goodwill can be used to refer to a number of different concepts. In some accounting and business valuation contexts, goodwill reflects the difference between the aggregate value of an operating business and the sum of the values of all separately identifiable tangible and intangible assets. Alternatively, goodwill is sometimes described as a representation of the future economic benefits associated with business assets that are not individually identified and separately recognised. In still other contexts goodwill is referred to as the expectation of future trade from existing customers. The term ongoing concern value is sometimes referred to as the value of the assembled assets of an operating business over and above the sum of the separate values of the individual assets. It is generally recognised that goodwill and ongoing concern value cannot be segregated or transferred separately from other business assets. See paragraphs 9.68-9.70 for a discussion of the related notion of a transfer of all of the elements of an ongoing concern in connection with a business restructuring.
It is not necessary for purposes of this chapter to establish a precise definition of goodwill or ongoing concern value for transfer pricing purposes or to define when goodwill or ongoing concern value may or may not constitute an intangible. It is important to recognise, however, that an important and monetarily significant part of the compensation paid between independent enterprises when some or all of the assets of an operating business are transferred may represent compensation for something referred to in one or another of the alternative descriptions of goodwill or ongoing concern value. When similar transactions occur between associated enterprises, such value should be taken into account in determining an arm’s length price for the transaction. When the reputational value sometimes referred to by the term goodwill is transferred to or shared with an associated enterprise in connection with a transfer or licence of a trademark or other intangible that reputational value should be taken into account in determining appropriate compensation. If features of a business such as a reputation for producing high quality products or providing high quality service allow that business to charge higher prices for goods or services than an entity lacking such reputation, and such features might be characterised as goodwill or ongoing concern value under one or another definition of such terms, such features should be taken into account in establishing arm’s length prices for sales of goods or the provision of services between associated enterprises whether or not they are characterised as goodwill. In other words, labelling a contribution of value from one party to another as goodwill or ongoing concern value does not render such contribution non¬compensable. See paragraph 6.2.
The requirement that goodwill and ongoing concern value be taken into account in pricing transactions in no way implies that the residual measures of goodwill derived for some specific accounting or business valuation purposes are necessarily appropriate measures of the price that would be paid for the transferred business or licence rights, together with their associated goodwill and ongoing concern value, by independent parties. Accounting and business valuation measures of goodwill and ongoing concern value do not, as a general rule, correspond to the arm’s length price of transferred goodwill or ongoing concern value in a transfer pricing analysis. Depending on the facts and circumstances, however, accounting valuations and the information supporting such valuations can provide a useful starting point in conducting a transfer pricing analysis. The absence of a single precise definition of goodwill makes it essential for taxpayers and tax administrations to describe specifically relevant intangibles in connection with a transfer pricing analysis, and to consider whether independent enterprises would provide compensation for such intangibles in comparable circumstances.
In some circumstances group synergies contribute to the level of income earned by an MNE group. Such group synergies can take many different forms including streamlined management, elimination of costly duplication of effort, integrated systems, purchasing or borrowing power, etc. Such features may have an effect on the determination of arm’s length conditions for controlled transactions and should be addressed for transfer pricing purposes as comparability factors. As they are not owned or controlled by an enterprise, they are not intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1. See Section D.8 of Chapter I for a discussion of the transfer pricing treatment of group synergies.
Specific characteristics of a given market may affect the arm’s length conditions of transactions in that market. For example, the high purchasing power of households in a particular market may affect the prices paid for certain luxury consumer goods. Similarly, low prevailing labour costs, proximity to markets, favourable weather conditions and the like may affect the prices paid for specific goods and services in a particular market. Such market specific characteristics are not capable, however, of being owned or controlled, and are therefore not intangibles within the meaning of Section A. 1., and should be taken into account in a transfer pricing analysis through the required comparability analysis. See Section D.6 of Chapter I for guidance regarding the transfer pricing treatment of market specific characteristics.
In transfer pricing cases involving intangibles, the determination of the entity or entities within an MNE group which are ultimately entitled to share in the returns derived by the group from exploiting intangibles is crucial. A related issue is which entity or entities within the group should ultimately bear the costs, investments and other burdens associated with the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of intangibles. Although the legal owner of an intangible may receive the proceeds from exploitation of the intangible, other members of the legal owner’s MNE group may have performed functions, used assets, or assumed risks that are expected to contribute to the value of the intangible. Members of the MNE group performing such functions, using such assets, and assuming such risks must be compensated for their contributions under the arm’s length principle. This Section B confirms that the ultimate allocation of the returns derived by the MNE group from the exploitation of intangibles, and the ultimate allocation of costs and other burdens related to intangibles among members of the MNE group, is accomplished by compensating members of the MNE group for functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed in the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of intangibles according to the principles described in Chapters I – III.
Applying the provisions of Chapters I – III to address these questions can be highly challenging for a number of reasons. Depending on the facts of any given case involving intangibles the following factors, among others, can create challenges: i) A lack of comparability between the intangible related transactions undertaken between associated enterprises and those transactions that can be identified between independent enterprises; ii) A lack of comparability between the intangibles in question; iii) The ownership and/or use of different intangibles by different associated enterprises within the MNE group; iv) The difficulty of isolating the impact of any particular intangible on the MNE group’s income; v) The fact that various members of an MNE group may perform activities relating to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of an intangible, often in a way and with a level of integration that is not observed between independent enterprises; vi) The fact that contributions of various members of the MNE group to intangible value may take place in years different than the years in which any associated returns are realised; and vii) The fact that taxpayer structures may be based on contractual terms between associated enterprises that separate ownership, the assumption of risk, and/or funding of investments in intangibles from performance of important functions, control over risk, and decisions related to investment in ways that are not observed in transactions between independent enterprises and that may contribute to base erosion and profit shifting. Notwithstanding these potential challenges, applying the arm’s length principle and the provisions of Chapters I – III within an established framework can, in most cases, yield an appropriate allocation of the returns derived by the MNE group from the exploitation of intangibles.
The framework for analysing transactions involving intangibles between associated enterprises requires taking the following steps, consistent with the guidance for identifying the commercial or financial relations provided in Section D. 1 of Chapter I: i) Identify the intangibles used or transferred in the transaction with specificity and the specific, economically significant risks associated with the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of the intangibles; ii) Identify the full contractual arrangements, with special emphasis on determining legal ownership of intangibles based on the terms and conditions of legal arrangements, including relevant registrations, licence agreements, other relevant contracts, and other indicia of legal ownership, and the contractual rights and obligations, including contractual assumption of risks in the relations between the associated enterprises; iii) Identify the parties performing functions (including specifically the important functions described in paragraph 6.56), using assets, and managing risks related to developing, enhancing, maintaining, protecting, and exploiting the intangibles by means of the functional analysis, and in particular which parties control any outsourced functions, and control specific, economically significant risks; iv) Confirm the consistency between the terms of the relevant contractual arrangements and the conduct of the parties, and determine whether the party assuming economically significant risks under step 4 (i) of paragraph 1.60, controls the risks and has the financial capacity to assume the risks relating to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of the intangibles; v) Delineate the actual controlled transactions related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles in light of the legal ownership of the intangibles, the other relevant contractual relations under relevant registrations and contracts, and the conduct of the parties, including their relevant contributions of functions, assets and risks, taking into account the framework for analysing and allocating risk under Section D.1.2.1 of Chapter I; vi) Where possible, determine arm’s length prices for these transactions consistent with each party’s contributions of functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed, unless the guidance in Section D.2 of Chapter I applies.
Legal rights and contractual arrangements form the starting point for any transfer pricing analysis of transactions involving intangibles. The terms of a transaction may be found in written contracts, public records such as patent or trademark registrations, or in correspondence and/or other communications among the parties. Contracts may describe the roles, responsibilities and rights of associated enterprises with respect to intangibles. They may describe which entity or entities provide funding, undertake research and development, maintain and protect intangibles, and perform functions necessary to exploit the intangibles, such as manufacturing, marketing and distribution. They may describe how receipts and expenses of the MNE associated with intangibles are to be allocated and may specify the form and amount of payment to all members of the group for their contributions. The prices and other conditions contained in such contracts may or may not be consistent with the arm’s length principle.
Where no written terms exist, or where the facts of the case, including the conduct of the parties, differ from the written terms of any agreement between them or supplement these written terms, the actual transaction must be deduced from the facts as established, including the conduct of the parties (see Section D. 1.1 of Chapter I). It is, therefore, good practice for associated enterprises to document their decisions and intentions regarding the allocation of significant rights in intangibles. Documentation of such decisions and intentions, including written agreements, should generally be in place at or before the time that associated enterprises enter into transactions leading to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, or exploitation of intangibles.
The right to use some types of intangibles may be protected under specific intellectual property laws and registration systems. Patents, trademarks and copyrights are examples of such intangibles. Generally, the registered legal owner of such intangibles has the exclusive legal and commercial right to use the intangible, as well as the right to prevent others from using or otherwise infringing the intangible. These rights may be granted for a specific geographic area and/or for a specific period of time.
There are also intangibles that are not protectable under specific intellectual property registration systems, but that are protected against unauthorised appropriation or imitation under unfair competition legislation or other enforceable laws, or by contract. Trade dress, trade secrets, and know-how may fall under this category of intangibles.
The extent and nature of the available protection under applicable law may vary from country to country, as may the conditions on which such protection is provided. Such differences can arise either from differences in substantive intellectual property law between countries, or from practical differences in local enforcement of such laws. For example, the availability of legal protection for some intangibles may be subject to conditions such as continued commercial use of the intangible or timely renewal of registrations. This means that in some circumstances or jurisdictions, the degree of protection for an intangible may be extremely limited either legally or in practice.
The legal owner will be considered to be the owner of the intangible for transfer pricing purposes. If no legal owner of the intangible is identified under applicable law or governing contracts, then the member of the MNE group that, based on the facts and circumstances, controls decisions concerning the exploitation of the intangible and has the practical capacity to restrict others from using the intangible will be considered the legal owner of the intangible for transfer pricing purposes.
In identifying the legal owner of intangibles, an intangible and any licence relating to that intangible are considered to be different intangibles for transfer pricing purposes, each having a different owner. See paragraph 6.26. For example, Company A, the legal owner of a trademark, may provide an exclusive licence to Company B to manufacture, market, and sell goods using the trademark. One intangible, the trademark, is legally owned by Company A. Another intangible, the licence to use the trademark in connection with manufacturing, marketing and distribution of trademarked products, is legally owned by Company B. Depending on the facts and circumstances, marketing activities undertaken by Company B pursuant to its licence may potentially affect the value of the underlying intangible legally owned by Company A, the value of Company B’s licence, or both.
While determining legal ownership and contractual arrangements is an important first step in the analysis, these determinations are separate and distinct from the question of remuneration under the arm’s length principle. For transfer pricing purposes, legal ownership of intangibles, by itself, does not confer any right ultimately to retain returns derived by the MNE group from exploiting the intangible, even though such returns may initially accrue to the legal owner as a result of its legal or contractual right to exploit the intangible. The return ultimately retained by or attributed to the legal owner depends upon the functions it performs, the assets it uses, and the risks it assumes, and upon the contributions made by other MNE group members through their functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed. For example, in the case of an internally developed intangible, if the legal owner performs no relevant functions, uses no relevant assets, and assumes no relevant risks, but acts solely as a title holding entity, the legal owner will not ultimately be entitled to any portion of the return derived by the MNE group from the exploitation of the intangible other than arm’s length compensation, if any, for holding title.
Legal ownership and contractual relationships serve simply as reference points for identifying and analysing controlled transactions relating to the intangible and for determining the appropriate remuneration to members of a controlled group with respect to those transactions. Identification of legal ownership, combined with the identification and compensation of relevant functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed by all contributing members, provides the analytical framework for identifying arm’s length prices and other conditions for transactions involving intangibles. As with any other type of transaction, the analysis must take into account all of the relevant facts and circumstances present in a particular case and price determinations must reflect the realistic alternatives of the relevant group members. The principles of this paragraph are illustrated by Examples 1 to 6 in the Annex to Chapter VI.
Because the actual outcomes and manner in which risks associated with the development or acquisition of an intangible will play out over time are not known with certainty at the time members of the MNE group make decisions regarding intangibles, it is important to distinguish between (a) anticipated (or ex ante) remuneration, which refers to the future income expected to be derived by a member of the MNE group at the time of a transaction; and (b) actual (or ex post) remuneration, which refers to the income actually earned by a member of the group through the exploitation of the intangible.
The terms of the compensation that must be paid to members of the MNE group that contribute to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of intangibles is generally determined on an ex ante basis. That is, it is determined at the time transactions are entered into and before risks associated with the intangible play out. The form of such compensation may be fixed or contingent. The actual (ex post) profit or loss of the business after compensating other members of the MNE group may differ from these anticipated profits depending on how the risks associated with the intangible or the other relevant risks related to the transaction or arrangement actually play out. The accurately delineated transaction, as determined under Section D. 1 of Chapter I, will determine which associated entity assumes such risks and accordingly will bear the consequences (costs or additional returns) when the risks materialise in a different manner to what was anticipated (see Section B.2.4).
An important question is how to determine the appropriate arm’s length remuneration to members of a group for their functions, assets, and risks within the framework established by the taxpayer’s contractual arrangements, the legal ownership of intangibles, and the conduct of the parties. Section B.2 discusses the application of the arm’s length principle to situations involving intangibles. It focuses on the functions, assets and risks related to the intangibles. Unless stated otherwise, references to arm’s length returns and arm’s length remuneration in Section B.2 refer to anticipated (ex ante) returns and remuneration.
As stated above, a determination that a particular group member is the legal owner of intangibles does not, in and of itself, necessarily imply that the legal owner is entitled to any income generated by the business after compensating other members of the MNE group for their contributions in the form of functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed.
In identifying arm’s length prices for transactions among associated enterprises, the contributions of members of the group related to the creation of intangible value should be considered and appropriately rewarded. The arm’s length principle and the principles of Chapters I – III require that all members of the group receive appropriate compensation for any functions they perform, assets they use, and risks they assume in connection with the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles. It is therefore necessary to determine, by means of a functional analysis, which member(s) perform and exercise control over development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation functions, which member(s) provide funding and other assets, and which member(s) assume the various risks associated with the intangible. Of course, in each of these areas, this may or may not be the legal owner of the intangible. As noted in paragraph 6.133, it is also important in determining arm’s length compensation for functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed to consider comparability factors that may contribute to the creation of value or the generation of returns derived by the MNE group from the exploitation of intangibles in determining prices for relevant transactions.
The relative importance of contributions to the creation of intangible value by members of the group in the form of functions performed, assets used and risks assumed will vary depending on the circumstances. For example, assume that a fully developed and currently exploitable intangible is purchased from a third party by a member of a group and exploited through manufacturing and distribution functions performed by other group members while being actively managed and controlled by the entity purchasing the intangible. It is assumed that this intangible would require no development, may require little or no maintenance or protection, and may have limited usefulness outside the area of exploitation intended at the time of the acquisition. There would be no development risk associated with the intangible, although there are risks associated with acquiring and exploiting the intangible. The key functions performed by the purchaser are those necessary to select the most appropriate intangible on the market, to analyse its potential benefits if used by the MNE group, and the decision to take on the risk-bearing opportunity through purchasing the intangible. The key asset used is the funding required to purchase the intangible. If the purchaser has the capacity and actually performs all the key functions described, including control of the risks associated with acquiring and exploiting the intangible, it may be reasonable to conclude that, after making arm’s length payment for the manufacturing and distribution functions of other associated enterprises, the owner would be entitled to retain or have attributed to it any income or loss derived from the post-acquisition exploitation of the intangible. While the application of Chapters I – III may be fairly straightforward in such a simple fact pattern, the analysis may be more difficult in situations in which: i) Intangibles are self-developed by a multinational group, especially when such intangibles are transferred between associated enterprises while still under development; ii) Acquired or self-developed intangibles serve as a platform for further development; or iii) Other aspects, such as marketing or manufacturing are particularly important to value creation. The generally applicable guidance below is particularly relevant for, and is primarily concerned with, these more difficult cases.
Under the principles of Chapters I – III, each member of the MNE group should receive arm’s length compensation for the functions it performs. In cases involving intangibles, this includes functions related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles. The identity of the member or members of the group performing functions related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles, therefore, is one of the key considerations in determining arm’s length conditions for controlled transactions.
The need to ensure that all members of the MNE group are appropriately compensated for the functions they perform, the assets they contribute and the risks they assume implies that if the legal owner of intangibles is to be entitled ultimately to retain all of the returns derived from exploitation of the intangibles it must perform all of the functions, contribute all assets used and assume all risks related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of the intangible. This does not imply, however, that the associated enterprises constituting an MNE group must structure their operations regarding the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection or exploitation of intangibles in any particular way. It is not essential that the legal owner physically performs all of the functions related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of an intangible through its own personnel in order to be entitled ultimately to retain or be attributed a portion of the return derived by the MNE group from exploitation of the intangibles. In transactions between independent enterprises, certain functions are sometimes outsourced to other entities. A member of an MNE group that is the legal owner of intangibles could similarly outsource functions related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection or exploitation of intangibles to either independent enterprises or associated enterprises.
Where associated enterprises other than the legal owner perform relevant functions that are anticipated to contribute to the value of the intangibles, they should be compensated on an arm’s length basis for the functions they perform under the principles set out in Chapters I – III. The determination of arm’s length compensation for functional contributions should consider the availability of comparable uncontrolled transactions, the importance of the functions performed to the creation of intangible value, and the realistically available options of the parties. The specific considerations described in paragraphs 6.53 to 6.58 should also be taken into account.
In outsourcing transactions between independent enterprises, it is usually the case that an entity performing functions on behalf of the legal owner of the intangible that relate to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of the intangible will operate under the control of such legal owner (as discussed in paragraph 1.65). Because of the nature of the relationships between associated enterprises that are members of an MNE group, however, it may be the case that outsourced functions performed by associated enterprises will be controlled by an entity other than the legal owner of the intangibles. In such cases, the legal owner of the intangible should also compensate the entity performing control functions related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles on an arm’s length basis. In assessing what member of the MNE group in fact controls the performance of the relevant functions, principles apply analogous to those for determining control over risk in Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I. Assessing the capacity of a particular entity to exert control and the actual performance of such control functions will be an important part of the analysis.
If the legal owner neither controls nor performs the functions related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection or exploitation of the intangible, the legal owner would not be entitled to any ongoing benefit attributable to the outsourced functions. Depending on the facts, the arm’s length compensation required to be provided by the legal owner to other associated enterprises performing or controlling functions related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, or exploitation of intangibles may comprise any share of the total return derived from exploitation of the intangibles. A legal owner not performing any relevant function relating to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection or exploitation of the intangible will therefore not be entitled to any portion of such returns related to the performance or control of functions relating to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection or exploitation of the intangible. It is entitled to an arm’s length compensation for any functions it actually performs, any assets it actually uses and risks it actually assumes. See Sections B.2.2 to B.2.3. In determining the functions it actually performs, assets it actually uses and the risks it actually assumes the guidance in Section D.1.2 of Chapter I is especially relevant.
The relative value of contributions to development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles varies depending on the particular facts of the case. The MNE group member(s) making the more significant contributions in a particular case should receive relatively greater remuneration. For example, a company that merely funds research and development should have a lower anticipated return than if it both funds and controls research and development. Other things being equal, a still higher anticipated return should be provided if the entity funds, controls, and physically performs the research and development. See also the discussion of funding in Section B.2.2.
In considering the arm’s length compensation for functional contributions of various members of the MNE group, certain important functions will have special significance. The nature of these important functions in any specific case will depend on the facts and circumstances. For self-developed intangibles, or for self-developed or acquired intangibles that serve as a platform for further development activities, these more important functions may include, among others, design and control of research and marketing programmes, direction of and establishing priorities for creative undertakings including determining the course of “blue-sky” research, control over strategic decisions regarding intangible development programmes, and management and control of budgets. For any intangible (i.e. for either self-developed or acquired intangibles) other important functions may also include important decisions regarding defence and protection of intangibles, and ongoing quality control over functions performed by independent or associated enterprises that may have a material effect on the value of the intangible. Those important functions usually make a significant contribution to intangible value and, if those important functions are outsourced by the legal owner in transactions between associated enterprises, the performance of those functions should be compensated with an appropriate share of the returns derived by the MNE group from the exploitation of intangibles.
Because it may be difficult to find comparable transactions involving the outsourcing of such important functions, it may be necessary to utilise transfer pricing methods not directly based on comparables, including transactional profit split methods and ex ante valuation techniques, to appropriately reward the performance of those important functions. Where the legal owner outsources most or all of such important functions to other group members, attribution to the legal owner of any material portion of the return derived from the exploitation of the intangibles after compensating other group members for their functions should be carefully considered taking into account the functions it actually performs, the assets it actually uses and the risks it actually assumes under the guidance in Section D. 1.2 of Chapter I. Examples 16 and 17 in the Annex to Chapter VI illustrate the principles contained in this paragraph.
Because the important functions described in paragraph 6.56 are often instrumental in managing the different functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed that are key to the successful development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, or exploitation of intangibles, and are therefore essential to the creation of intangible value, it is necessary to carefully evaluate transactions between parties performing these important functions and other associated enterprises. In particular, the reliability of a one-sided transfer pricing method will be substantially reduced if the party or parties performing significant portions of the important functions are treated as the tested party or parties. See Example 6.
Group members that use assets in the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of an intangible should receive appropriate compensation for doing so. Such assets may include, without limitation, intangibles used in research, development or marketing (e.g. know-how, customer relationships, etc.), physical assets, or funding. One member of an MNE group may fund some or all of the development, enhancement, maintenance, and protection of an intangible, while one or more other members perform all of the relevant functions. When assessing the appropriate anticipated return to funding in such circumstances, it should be recognised that in arm’s length transactions, a party that provides funding, but does not control the risks or perform other functions associated with the funded activity or asset, generally does not receive anticipated returns equivalent to those received by an otherwise similarly-situated investor who also performs and controls important functions and controls important risks associated with the funded activity. The nature and amount of compensation attributable to an entity that bears intangible-related costs, without more, must be determined on the basis of all the relevant facts, and should be consistent with similar funding arrangements among independent entities where such arrangements can be identified. See the guidance in Section D.126.96.36.199 of Chapter I, and in particular Example 3 in paragraphs 1.85 and 1.103, which illustrate a situation where the party providing funding does not control the financial risk associated with the funding.
Funding and risk-taking are integrally related in the sense that funding often coincides with the taking of certain risks (e.g. the funding party contractually assuming the risk of loss of its funds). The nature and extent of the risk assumed, however, will vary depending on the economically relevant characteristics of the transaction. The risk will, for example, be lower when the party to which the funding is provided has a high creditworthiness, or when assets are pledged, or when the investment funded is low risk, compared with the risk where the creditworthiness is lower, or the funding is unsecured, or the investment being funded is high risk. Moreover, the larger the amount of the funds provided, the larger the potential impact of the risk on the provider of the funding.
Under the principles of Section D. 1.2 of Chapter I, the first step in a transfer pricing analysis in relation to risks is to identify the economically significant risks with specificity. When identifying risks in relation to an investment with specificity, it is important to distinguish between the financial risks that are linked to the funding provided for the investments and the operational risks that are linked to the operational activities for which the funding is used, such as for example the development risk when the funding is used for developing a new intangible. Where a party providing funding exercises control over the financial risk associated with the provision of funding, without the assumption of, including the control over, any other specific risk, it could generally only expect a risk-adjusted return on its funding.
The contractual arrangements will generally determine the terms of the funding transaction, as clarified or supplemented by the economic characteristics of the transaction as reflected in the conduct of the parties. The return that would generally be expected by the funder should equal an appropriate risk-adjusted return. Such return can be determined, for example, based on the cost of capital or the return of a realistic alternative investment with comparable economic characteristics. In determining an appropriate return for the funding activities, it is important to consider the financing options realistically available to the party receiving the funds. There may be a difference between the return expected by the funder on an ex ante basis and the actual return received on an ex post basis. For example, when the funder provides a loan for a fixed amount at a fixed interest rate, the difference between the actual and expected returns will reflect the risk playing out that the borrower cannot make some or all of the payments due.
The extent and form of the activities that will be necessary to exercise control over the financial risk attached to the provision of funding will depend on the riskiness of the investment for the funder, taking into account the amount of money at stake and the investment for which these funds are used. In accordance with the definition of control as reflected in paragraphs 1.65 and 1.66 of these Guidelines, exercising control over a specific financial risk requires the capability to make the relevant decisions related to the risk bearing opportunity, in this case the provision of the funding, together with the actual performance of these decision making functions. In addition, the party exercising control over the financial risk must perform the activities as indicated in paragraph 1.65 and 1.66 in relation to the day-to-day risk mitigation activities related to these risks when these are outsourced and related to any preparatory work necessary to facilitate its decision making, if it does not perform these activities itself.
When funding is provided to a party for the development of an intangible, the relevant decisions relating to taking on, laying off or declining a risk bearing opportunity and the decisions on whether and how to respond to the risks associated with the opportunity, are the decisions related to the provision of funding and the conditions of the transaction. Depending on the facts and circumstances, such decisions may depend on an assessment of the creditworthiness of the party receiving the funds and an assessment of how the risks related to the development project may impact the expectations in relation to the returns on funding provided or additional funding required. The conditions underlying the provision of the funding may include the possibility to link funding decisions to key development decisions which will impact the funding return. For example, decisions may have to be made on whether to take the project to the next stage or to allow the investments in costly assets. The higher the development risk and the closer the financial risk is related to the development risk, the more the funder will need to have the capability to assess the progress of the development of the intangible and the consequences of this progress for achieving its expected funding return, and the more closely the funder may link the continued provision of funding to key operational developments that may impact its financial risk. The funder will need to have the capability to make the assessments regarding the continued provision of funding, and will need to actually make such assessments, which will then need to be taken into account by the funder in actually making the relevant decisions on the provision of funding.
Particular types of risk that may have importance in a functional analysis relating to transactions involving intangibles include (i) risks related to development of intangibles, including the risk that costly research and development or marketing activities will prove to be unsuccessful, and taking into account the timing of the investment (for example, whether the investment is made at an early stage, mid-way through the development process, or at a late stage will impact the level of the underlying investment risk); (ii) the risk of product obsolescence, including the possibility that technological advances of competitors will adversely affect the value of the intangibles; (iii) infringement risk, including the risk that defence of intangible rights or defence against other persons’ claims of infringement may prove to be time consuming, costly and/or unavailing; (iv) product liability and similar risks related to products and services based on the intangibles; and (v) exploitation risks, uncertainties in relation to the returns to be generated by the intangible. The existence and level of such risks will depend on the facts and circumstances of each individual case and the nature of the intangible in question.
The identity of the member or members of the group assuming risks related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles is an important consideration in determining prices for controlled transactions. The assumption of risk will determine which entity or entities will be responsible for the consequences if the risk materialises. The accurate delineation of the controlled transaction, based on the guidance in Section D. 1 of Chapter I, may determine that the legal owner assumes risks or that, instead, other members of the group are assuming risks, and such members must be compensated for their contributions in that regard.
In determining which member or members of the group assume risks related to intangibles, the principles of Section D. 1.2 of Chapter I apply. In particular, steps 1 to 5 of the process to analyse risk in a controlled transaction as laid out in paragraph 1.60 should be followed in determining which party assumes risks related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles.
It is especially important to ensure that the group member(s) asserting entitlement to returns from assuming risk actually bear responsibility for the actions that need to be taken and the costs that may be incurred if the relevant risk materialises. If costs are borne or actions are undertaken by an associated enterprise other than the associated enterprise assuming the risk as determined under the framework for analysing risk reflected in paragraph 1.60 of these guidelines, then a transfer pricing adjustment should be made so that the costs are allocated to the party assuming the risk and the other associated enterprise is appropriately remunerated for any activities undertaken in connection with the materialisation of the risk. Example 7 in the Annex to Chapter VI illustrates this principle.
It is quite common that actual (ex post) profitability is different than anticipated (ex ante) profitability. This may result from risks materialising in a different way to what was anticipated through the occurrence of unforeseeable developments. For example, it may happen that a competitive product is removed from the market, a natural disaster takes place in a key market, a key asset malfunctions for unforeseeable reasons, or that a breakthrough technological development by a competitor will have the effect of making products based on the intangible in question obsolete or less desirable. It may also happen that the financial projections, on which calculations of ex ante returns and compensation arrangements are based, properly took into account risks and the probability of reasonably foreseeable events occurring and that the differences between actual and anticipated profitability reflects the playing out of those risks. Finally, it may happen that financial projections, on which calculations of ex ante returns and compensation arrangements are based, did not adequately take into account the risks of different outcomes occurring and therefore led to an overestimation or an underestimation of the anticipated profits. The question arises in such circumstances whether, and if so, how the profits or losses should be shared among members of an MNE group that have contributed to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of the intangible in question.
Resolution of this question requires a careful analysis of which entity or entities in the MNE group in fact assume the economically significant risks as identified when delineating the actual transaction (see Section D. 1 of Chapter I). As this analytical framework indicates, the party actually assuming the economically significant risks may or may not be the associated enterprise contractually assuming these risks, such as the legal owner of the intangible, or may or may not be the funder of the investment. A party which is not allocated the risks that give rise to the deviation between the anticipated and actual outcomes under the principles of Sections D. 188.8.131.52 to D. 184.108.40.206 of Chapter I will not be entitled to the differences between actual and anticipated profits or required to bear losses that are caused by these differences if such risk materialises, unless these parties are performing the important functions as reflected in paragraph 6.56 or contributing to the control over the economically significant risks as established in paragraph 1.105, and it is determined that arm’s length remuneration of these functions would include a profit sharing element. In addition, consideration must be given to whether the ex ante remuneration paid to members of the MNE group for their functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed is, in fact, consistent with the arm’s length principle. Care should be taken to ascertain, for example, whether the group in fact underestimated or overestimated anticipated profits, thereby giving rise to underpayments or overpayments (determined on an ex ante basis) to some group members for their contributions. Transactions for which valuation is highly uncertain at the time of the transaction are particularly susceptible to such under or overestimations of value. This is further discussed in Section D.4.
If the legal owner of an intangible in substance: performs and controls all of the functions (including the important functions described in paragraph 6.56) related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of the intangible; provides all assets, including funding, necessary to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of the intangibles; and assumes all of the risks related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of the intangible, then it will be entitled to all of the anticipated, ex ante, returns derived from the MNE group’s exploitation of the intangible. To the extent that one or more members of the MNE group other than the legal owner performs functions, uses assets, or assumes risks related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of the intangible, such associated enterprises must be compensated on an arm’s length basis for their contributions. This compensation may, depending on the facts and circumstances, constitute all or a substantial part of the return anticipated to be derived from the exploitation of the intangible.
The entitlement of any member of the MNE group to profit or loss relating to differences between actual (ex post) and a proper estimation of anticipated (ex ante) profitability will depend on which entity or entities in the MNE group in fact assumes the risks as identified when delineating the actual transaction (see Section D. 1 of Chapter I). It will also depend on the entity or entities which are performing the important functions as reflected in paragraph 6.56 or contributing to the control over the economically significant risks as established in paragraph 1.105, and for which it is determined that an arm’s length remuneration of these functions would include a profit sharing element.
Undertaking the analysis described in Section D. 1 of Chapter I, as supplemented by this Chapter, should facilitate a clear assessment of legal ownership, functions, assets and risks associated with intangibles, and an accurate identification of the transactions whose prices and other conditions require determination. In general, the transactions identified by the MNE group in the relevant registrations and contracts are those whose prices and other conditions are to be determined under the arm’s length principle. However, the analysis may reveal that transactions in addition to, or different from, the transactions described in the registrations and contracts actually occurred. Consistent with Section D. 1 of Chapter I, the transactions (and the true terms thereof) to be analysed are those determined to have occurred consistent with the actual conduct of the parties and other relevant facts.
Arm’s length prices and other conditions for transactions should be determined according to the guidance in Chapters I – III, taking into account the contributions to anticipated intangible value of functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed at the time such functions are performed, assets are used, or risks are assumed as discussed in this Section B of this chapter. Section D of this chapter provides supplemental guidance on transfer pricing methods and other matters applicable in determining arm’s length prices and other conditions for transactions involving intangibles.
The principles set out in this Section B must be applied in a variety of situations involving the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles. A key consideration in each case is that associated enterprises that contribute to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, or exploitation of intangibles legally owned by another member of the group must receive arm’s length compensation for the functions they perform, the risks they assume, and the assets they use. In evaluating whether associated enterprises that perform functions or assume risks related to the development, enhancement, maintenance, protection, and exploitation of intangibles have been compensated on an arm’s length basis, it is necessary to consider (i) the level and nature of the activity undertaken; and (ii) the amount and form of compensation paid. In assessing whether the compensation provided in the controlled transaction is consistent with the arm’s length principle, reference should be made to the level and nature of activity of comparable uncontrolled entities performing similar functions, the compensation received by comparable uncontrolled entities performing similar functions, and the anticipated creation of intangible value by comparable uncontrolled entities performing similar functions. This section describes the application of these principles in commonly occurring fact patterns.
A common situation where these principles must be applied arises when an enterprise associated with the legal owner of trademarks performs marketing or sales functions that benefit the legal owner of the trademark, for example through a marketing arrangement or through a distribution/marketing arrangement. In such cases, it is necessary to determine how the marketer or distributor should be compensated for its activities. One important issue is whether the marketer/distributor should be compensated only for providing promotion and distribution services, or whether the marketer/distributor should also be compensated for enhancing the value of the trademarks and other marketing intangibles by virtue of its functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed.
The analysis of this issue requires an assessment of (i) the obligations and rights implied by the legal registrations and agreements between the parties; (ii) the functions performed, the assets used, and the risks assumed by the parties; (iii) the intangible value anticipated to be created through the marketer/distributor’s activities; and (iv) the compensation provided for the functions performed by the marketer/distributor (taking account of the assets used and risks assumed). One relatively clear case is where a distributor acts merely as an agent, being reimbursed for its promotional expenditures and being directed and controlled in its activities by the owner of the trademarks and other marketing intangibles. In that case, the distributor ordinarily would be entitled to compensation appropriate to its agency activities alone. It does not assume the risks associated with the further development of the trademark and other marketing intangibles, and would therefore not be entitled to additional remuneration in that regard.
When the distributor actually bears the cost of its marketing activities (for example, when there is no arrangement for the legal owner to reimburse the expenditures), the analysis should focus on the extent to which the distributor is able to share in the potential benefits deriving from its functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed currently or in the future. In general, in arm’s length transactions the ability of a party that is not the legal owner of trademarks and other marketing intangibles to obtain the benefits of marketing activities that enhance the value of those intangibles will depend principally on the substance of the rights of that party. For example, a distributor may have the ability to obtain benefits from its functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed in developing the value of a trademark and other marketing intangibles from its turnover and market share when it has a long-term contract providing for sole distribution rights for the trademarked product. In such a situation the distributor’s efforts may have enhanced the value of its own intangibles, namely its distribution rights. In such cases, the distributor’s share of benefits should be determined based on what an independent distributor would receive in comparable circumstances. In some cases, a distributor may perform functions, use assets or assume risks that exceed those an independent distributor with similar rights might incur or perform for the benefit of its own distribution activities and that create value beyond that created by other similarly situated marketers/distributors. An independent distributor in such a case would typically require additional remuneration from the owner of the trademark or other intangibles. Such remuneration could take the form of higher distribution profits (resulting from a decrease in the purchase price of the product), a reduction in royalty rate, or a share of the profits associated with the enhanced value of the trademark or other marketing intangibles, in order to compensate the distributor for its functions, assets, risks, and anticipated value creation. Examples 8 to 13 in the Annex to Chapter VI illustrate in greater detail the application of this Section B in the context of marketing and distribution arrangements.
The principles set out in the foregoing paragraphs also apply in situations involving the performance of research and development functions by a member of an MNE group under a contractual arrangement with an associated enterprise that is the legal owner of any resulting intangibles. Appropriate compensation for research services will depend on all the facts and circumstances, such as whether the research team possesses unique skills and experience relevant to the research, assumes risks (e.g. where “blue sky” research is undertaken), uses its own intangibles, or is controlled and managed by another party. Compensation based on a reimbursement of costs plus a modest mark-up will not reflect the anticipated value of, or the arm’s length price for, the contributions of the research team in all cases.
The principles set out in this section similarly apply in situations where a member of an MNE group provides manufacturing services that may lead to process or product improvements on behalf of an associated enterprise that will assume legal ownership of such process or product improvements. Examples 14 to 17 in the Annex to Chapter VI illustrate in greater detail the application of this Section B in the context of research and development arrangements.
Questions often arise regarding the arm’s length compensation for the use of group names, trade names and similar intangibles. Resolution of such questions should be based on the principles of this Section B and on the commercial and legal factors involved. As a general rule, no payment should be recognised for transfer pricing purposes for simple recognition of group membership or the use of the group name merely to reflect the fact of group membership. See paragraph 7.12
Where one member of the group is the owner of a trademark or other intangible for the group name, and where use of the name provides a financial benefit to members of the group other than the member legally owning such intangible, it is reasonable to conclude that a payment for use would have been made in arm’s length transactions. Similarly, such payments may be appropriate where a group member owns goodwill in respect of the business represented by an unregistered trademark, use of that trademark by another party would constitute misrepresentation, and the use of the trademark provides a clear financial benefit to a group member other than that owning the goodwill and unregistered trademark.
In determining the amount of payment with respect to a group name, it is important to consider the amount of the financial benefit to the user of the name attributable to use of that name, the costs and benefits associated with other alternatives, and the relative contributions to the value of the name made by the legal owner, and the entity using the name in the form of functions performed, assets used and risks assumed. Careful consideration should be given to the functions performed, assets used, and risks assumed by the user of the name in creating or enhancing the value of the name in its jurisdiction. Factors that would be important in a licence of the name to an independent enterprise under comparable circumstances applying the principles of Chapters I – III should be taken into account.
Where an existing successful business is acquired by another successful business and the acquired business begins to use a name, trademark or other branding indicative of the acquiring business, there should be no automatic assumption that a payment should be made in respect of such use. If there is a reasonable expectation of financial benefit to the acquired company from using the acquiring company’s branding, then the amount of any payment should be informed by the level of that anticipated benefit.
It may also be the case that the acquiring business will leverage the existing position of the acquired business to expand the business of the acquirer in the territory of operation of the acquired business by causing the acquired business to use the acquirer’s branding. In that case, consideration should be given to whether the acquirer should make a payment to or otherwise compensate the acquired business for the functions performed, risks assumed, and assets used (including its market position) in connection with expanded use of the acquirer’s name.
In addition to identifying with specificity the intangibles involved in a particular transfer pricing issue, and identifying the owner of such intangibles, it is necessary to identify and properly characterise, at the beginning of any transfer pricing analysis involving intangibles, the specific controlled transactions involving intangibles. The principles of Chapter I apply in identifying and accurately delineating transactions involving the use or transfer of intangibles. In addition to the guidance on identifying the actual transaction (Section D. 1 of Chapter I) and on business restructurings (Chapter IX, especially Part I), Section C of this chapter outlines some typical scenarios that may be useful in ascertaining whether intangibles or rights in intangibles are involved in a transaction. See Example 19. The characterisation of a transaction for transfer pricing purposes has no relevance for determinations under Article 12 of the OECD Model Tax Convention. See, e.g. paragraphs 8 to 19 of the Commentary to Article 12 of the OECD Model Tax Convention.
There are two general types of transactions where the identification and examination of intangibles will be relevant for transfer pricing purposes. These are: (i) transactions involving transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles; and (ii) transactions involving the use of intangibles in connection with the sale of goods or the provision of services.
Rights in intangibles themselves may be transferred in controlled transactions. Such transactions may involve a transfer of all rights in the intangibles in question (e.g. a sale of the intangible or a perpetual, exclusive licence of the intangible) or only limited rights (e.g. a licence or similar transfer of limited rights to use an intangible which may be subject to geographical restrictions, limited duration, or restrictions with respect to the right to use, exploit, reproduce, further transfer, or further develop). The principles of Chapters I – III apply to transactions involving the transfer of intangibles or rights in intangibles. Supplemental guidance regarding the determination of arm’s length conditions for such transactions is also contained in Sections D. 1, D.2 and D.3 of this chapter.
In transactions involving the transfer of intangibles or rights in intangibles, it is essential to identify with specificity the nature of the intangibles and rights in intangibles that are transferred between associated enterprises. Where limitations are imposed on the rights transferred, it is also essential to identify the nature of such limitations and the full extent of the rights transferred. It should be noted in this regard that the labels applied to transactions do not control the transfer pricing analysis. For example, in the case of a transfer of the exclusive right to exploit a patent in Country X, the taxpayer’s decision to characterise the transaction either as a sale of all of the Country X patent rights, or as a perpetual exclusive licence of a portion of the worldwide patent rights, does not affect the determination of the arm’s length price if, in either case, the transaction being priced is a transfer of exclusive rights to exploit the patent in Country X over its remaining useful life. Thus, the functional analysis should identify the nature of the transferred rights in intangibles with specificity.
Restrictions imposed in licence and similar agreements on the use of an intangible in the further development of new intangibles or new products using the intangibles are often of significant importance in a transfer pricing analysis. It is therefore important in identifying the nature of a transfer of rights in intangibles to consider whether the transferee receives the right to use the transferred intangible for the purpose of further research and development. In transactions between independent enterprises, arrangements are observed where the transferor/licensor retains the full right to any enhancements of the licensed intangible that may be developed during the term of the licence. Transactions between independent enterprises are also observed where the transferee/licensee retains the right to any enhancements it may develop, either for the term of its licence or in perpetuity. The nature of any limitations on further development of transferred intangibles, or on the ability of the transferee and the transferor to derive an economic benefit from such enhancements, can affect the value of the rights transferred and the comparability of two transactions involving otherwise identical or closely comparable intangibles. Such limitations must be evaluated in light of both the written terms of agreements and the actual conduct of the affected parties.
The provisions of Section D.1.1 of Chapter I apply in identifying the specific nature of a transaction involving a transfer of intangibles or rights in intangibles, in identifying the nature of any intangibles transferred, and in identifying any limitations imposed by the terms of the transfer on the use of those intangibles. For example, a written specification that a licence is non-exclusive or of limited duration need not be respected by the tax administration if such specification is not consistent with the conduct of the parties. Example 18 in the Annex to Chapter VI illustrates the provisions of this paragraph.
Intangibles (including limited rights in intangibles) may be transferred individually or in combination with other intangibles. In considering transactions involving transfers of combinations of intangibles, two related issues often arise.
The first of these involves the nature and economic consequences of interactions between different intangibles. It may be the case that some intangibles are more valuable in combination with other intangibles than would be the case if the intangibles were considered separately. It is therefore important to identify the nature of the legal and economic interactions between intangibles that are transferred in combination.
For example, a pharmaceutical product will often have associated with it three or more types of intangibles. The active pharmaceutical ingredient may be protected by one or more patents. The product will also have been through a testing process and a government regulatory authority may have issued an approval to market the product in a given geographic market and for specific approved indications based on that testing. The product may be marketed under a particular trademark. In combination these intangibles may be extremely valuable. In isolation, one or more of them may have much less value. For example, the trademark without the patent and regulatory marketing approval may have limited value since the product could not be sold without the marketing approval and generic competitors could not be excluded from the market without the patent. Similarly, the value of the patent may be much greater once regulatory marketing approval has been obtained than would be the case in the absence of the marketing approval. The interactions between each of these classes of intangibles, as well as which parties performed functions, bore the risks and incurred the costs associated with securing the intangibles, are therefore very important in performing a transfer pricing analysis with regard to a transfer of the intangibles. It is important to consider the relative contribution to value creation where different associated enterprises hold rights in the intangibles used.
A second and related issue involves the importance of ensuring that all intangibles transferred in a particular transaction have been identified. It may be the case, for example, that intangibles are so intertwined that it is not possible, as a substantive matter, to transfer one without transferring the other. Indeed, it will often be the case that a transfer of one intangible will necessarily imply the transfer of other intangibles. In such cases it is important to identify all of the intangibles made available to the transferee as a consequence of an intangibles transfer, applying the principles of Section D. 1 of Chapter I. For example, the transfer of rights to use a trademark under a licence agreement will usually also imply the licensing of the reputational value, sometimes referred to as goodwill, associated with that trademark, where it is the licensor who has built up such goodwill. Any licence fee required should consider both the trademark and the associated reputational value. Example 20 in the Annex to Chapter VI illustrates the principles of this paragraph.
It is important to identify situations where taxpayers or tax administrations may seek to artificially separate intangibles that, as a matter of substance, independent parties would not separate in comparable circumstances. For example, attempts to artificially separate trademarks or trade names from the goodwill or reputational value that is factually associated with the trademark or trade name should be identified and critically analysed. Example 21 in the Annex to Chapter VI illustrates the principles of this paragraph.
It should be recognised that the process of identifying all of the intangibles transferred in a particular transaction is an exercise of identifying, by reference to written agreements and the actual conduct of the parties, the actual transactions that have been undertaken, applying the principles of Section D. 1 of Chapter I.
In some situations intangibles or rights in intangibles may be transferred in combination with tangible business assets, or in combination with services. It is important in such a situation to determine whether intangibles have in fact been transferred in connection with the transaction. It is also important that all of the intangibles transferred in connection with a particular transaction be identified and taken into account in the transfer pricing analysis. Examples 23 to 25 in the Annex to Chapter VI illustrate the principles of this paragraph.
In some situations it may be both possible and appropriate to separate transactions in tangible goods or services from transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles for purposes of conducting a transfer pricing analysis. In these situations, the price of a package contract should be disaggregated in order to confirm that each element of the transaction is consistent with the arm’s length principle. In other situations transactions may be so closely related that it will be difficult to segregate tangible goods or service transactions from transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles. Reliability of available comparables will be an important factor in considering whether transactions should be combined or segregated. In particular, it is important to consider whether available comparables permit accurate evaluation of interactions between transactions.
One situation where transactions involving transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles may be combined with other transactions involves a business franchise arrangement. Under such an arrangement, one member of an MNE group may agree to provide a combination of services and intangibles to an associated enterprise in exchange for a single fee. If the services and intangibles made available under such an arrangement are sufficiently unique that reliable comparables cannot be identified for the entire service/intangible package, it may be necessary to segregate the various parts of the package of services and intangibles for separate transfer pricing consideration. It should be kept in mind, however, that the interactions between various intangibles and services may enhance the value of both.
In other situations, the provision of a service and the transfer of one or more intangibles may be so closely intertwined that it is difficult to separate the transactions for purposes of a transfer pricing analysis. For example, some transfers of rights in software may be combined with an undertaking by the transferor to provide ongoing software maintenance services, which may include periodic updates to the software. In situations where services and transfers of intangibles are intertwined, determining arm’s length prices on an aggregate basis may be necessary.
It should be emphasised that delineating the transaction as the provision of products or services or the transfer of intangibles or a combination of both does not necessarily dictate the use of a particular transfer pricing method. For example, a cost plus approach will not be appropriate for all service transactions, and not all intangibles transactions require complex valuations or the application of profit split methods. The facts of each specific situation, and the results of the required functional analysis, will guide the manner in which transactions are combined, delineated and analysed for transfer pricing purposes, as well as the selection of the most appropriate transfer pricing method in a particular case. The ultimate objective is to identify the prices and other relevant conditions that would be established between independent enterprises in comparable transactions.
Moreover, it should also be emphasised that determinations as to whether transactions should be aggregated or segregated for analysis usually involve the delineation of the actual transaction undertaken, by reference to written agreements and the actual conduct of the parties. Determinations regarding the actual transaction undertaken constitute one necessary element in determining the most appropriate transfer pricing method in the particular case.
Intangibles may be used in connection with controlled transactions in situations where there is no transfer of the intangible or of rights in the intangible. For example, intangibles may be used by one or both parties to a controlled transaction in connection with the manufacture of goods sold to an associated enterprise, in connection with the marketing of goods purchased from an associated enterprise, or in connection with the performance of services on behalf of an associated enterprise. The nature of such a transaction should be clearly specified, and any relevant intangibles used by either of the parties in connection with such a controlled transaction should be identified and taken into account in the comparability analysis, in the selection and application of the most appropriate transfer pricing method for that transaction, and in the choice of the tested party. Supplemental guidance regarding the determination of arm’s length conditions for transactions involving the use of intangibles in connection with the sale of goods or the provision of services is contained in Sections D. 1 and D.4 of this chapter.
The need to consider the use of intangibles by a party to a controlled transaction involving a sale of goods can be illustrated as follows. Assume that a car manufacturer uses valuable proprietary patents to manufacture the cars that it then sells to associated distributors. Assume that the patents significantly contribute to the value of the cars. The patents and the value they contribute should be identified and taken into account in the comparability analysis of the transaction consisting in the sales of cars by the car manufacturer to its associated distributors, in selecting the most appropriate transfer pricing method for the transactions, and in selecting the tested party. The associated distributors purchasing the cars do not, however, acquire any right in the manufacturer’s patents. In such a case, the patents are used in the manufacturing and may affect the value of the cars, but the patents themselves are not transferred.
As another example of the use of intangibles in connection with a controlled transaction, assume that an exploration company has acquired or developed valuable geological data and analysis, and sophisticated exploratory software and know-how. Assume further that it uses those intangibles in providing exploration services to an associated enterprise. Those intangibles should be identified and taken into account in the comparability analysis of the service transactions between the exploration company and the associated enterprise, in selecting the most appropriate transfer pricing method for the transaction, and in selecting the tested party. Assuming that the associated enterprise of the exploration company does not acquire any rights in the exploration company’s intangibles, the intangibles are used in the performance of the services and may affect the value of services, but are not transferred.
After identifying the relevant transactions involving intangibles, specifically identifying the intangibles involved in those transactions, identifying which entity or entities legally own the intangibles as well as those that contribute to the value of the intangibles, it should be possible to identify arm’s length conditions for the relevant transactions. The principles set out in Chapters I – III of these Guidelines should be applied in determining arm’s length conditions for transactions involving intangibles. In particular, the recommended nine-step process set out in paragraph 3.4 can be helpful in identifying arm’s length conditions for transactions involving intangibles. As an essential part of applying the principles of Chapter III to conduct a comparability analysis under the process described in paragraph 3.4, the principles contained in Sections A, B, and C of this Chapter VI should be considered.
However, the principles of Chapters I – III can sometimes be difficult to apply to controlled transactions involving intangibles. Intangibles may have special characteristics that complicate the search for comparables, and in some cases make pricing difficult to determine at the time of the transaction. Further, for wholly legitimate business reasons, due to the relationship between them, associated enterprises might sometimes structure a transaction involving intangibles in a manner that independent enterprises would not contemplate. See paragraph 1.11. The use or transfer of intangibles may raise challenging issues regarding comparability, selection of transfer pricing methods, and determination of arm’s length conditions for transactions. This Section D provides supplemental guidance for use in applying the principles of Chapters I – III to determine arm’s length conditions for controlled transactions involving intangibles.
Section D. 1 provides general supplemental guidance related to all transactions involving intangibles. Section D.2 provides supplemental guidance specifically related to transactions involving the transfer of intangibles or rights in intangibles. Section D.3 provides supplemental guidance regarding transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles whose value is highly uncertain at the time of the transfer. Section D.4 provides an approach to pricing hard-to-value intangibles. Section D.5 provides supplemental guidance applicable to transactions involving the use of intangibles in connection with the sale of goods or the provision of services in situations where there is no transfer of rights in the intangibles.
Section D of Chapter I and Chapter III contain principles to be considered and a recommended process to be followed in conducting a comparability analysis. The principles described in those sections of the Guidelines apply to all controlled transactions involving intangibles.
In applying the principles of the Guidelines related to the content and process of a comparability analysis to a transaction involving intangibles, a transfer pricing analysis must consider the options realistically available to each of the parties to the transaction.
In considering the options realistically available to the parties, the perspectives of each of the parties to the transaction must be considered. A comparability analysis focusing only on one side of a transaction generally does not provide a sufficient basis for evaluating a transaction involving intangibles (including in those situations for which a one-sided transfer pricing method is ultimately determined).
While it is important to consider the perspectives of both parties to the transaction in conducting a comparability analysis, the specific business circumstances of one of the parties should not be used to dictate an outcome contrary to the realistically available options of the other party. For example, a transferor would not be expected to accept a price for the transfer of either all or part of its rights in an intangible that is less advantageous to the transferor than its other realistically available options (including making no transfer at all), merely because a particular associated enterprise transferee lacks the resources to effectively exploit the transferred rights in the intangible. Similarly, a transferee should not be expected to accept a price for a transfer of rights in one or more intangibles that would make it impossible for the transferee to anticipate earning a profit using the acquired rights in the intangible in its business. Such an outcome would be less favourable to the transferee than its realistically available option of not engaging in the transfer at all.
It will often be the case that a price for a transaction involving intangibles can be identified that is consistent with the realistically available options of each of the parties. The existence of such prices is consistent with the assumption that MNE groups seek to optimise resource allocations. If situations arise in which the minimum price acceptable to the transferor, based on its realistically available options, exceeds the maximum price acceptable to the transferee, based on its realistically available options, it may be necessary to consider whether the actual transaction should be disregarded under the criterion for non-recognition set out in Section D.2 of Chapter I, or whether the conditions of the transaction should otherwise be adjusted. Similarly, if situations arise in which there are assertions that either the current use of an intangible, or a proposed realistically available option (i.e. an alternative use of the intangible), does not optimise resource allocations, it may be necessary to consider whether such assertions are consistent with the true facts and circumstances of the case. This discussion highlights the importance of taking all relevant facts and circumstances into account in accurately delineating the actual transaction involving intangibles.
This section provides supplemental guidance regarding specific issues arising in connection with the transfer between associated enterprises of intangibles or rights in intangibles. Such transactions may include sales of intangibles as well as transactions that are economically equivalent to sales. Such transactions could also include a licence of rights in one or more intangibles or a similar transaction. This section is not intended to provide comprehensive guidance with regard to the transfer pricing treatment of such intangibles transfers. Rather, it supplements the otherwise applicable provisions of Chapters I – III, and the guidance in Sections A, B, C, and D. 1 of this chapter, in the context of transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles, by providing guidance with regard to certain specific topics commonly arising in connection with such transfers.
In applying the provisions of Chapters I – III to transactions involving the transfer of intangibles or rights in intangibles, it should be borne in mind that intangibles often have unique characteristics, and as a result have the potential for generating returns and creating future benefits that could differ widely. In conducting a comparability analysis with regard to a transfer of intangibles, it is therefore essential to consider the unique features of the intangibles. This is particularly important where the CUP method is considered to be the most appropriate transfer pricing method, but also has importance in applying other methods that rely on comparables. In the case of a transfer of an intangible or rights in an intangible that provides the enterprise with a unique competitive advantage in the market, purportedly comparable intangibles or transactions should be carefully scrutinised. It is critical to assess whether potential comparables in fact exhibit similar profit potential.
Set out below is a description of some of the specific features of intangibles that may prove important in a comparability analysis involving transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles. The following list is not exhaustive and in a specific case consideration of additional or different factors may be an essential part of a comparability analysis.
Whether the rights in intangibles relevant to a particular transaction involving the transfer of intangibles or rights in intangibles are exclusive or non-exclusive can be an important comparability consideration. Some intangibles allow the legal owner of the intangible to exclude others from using the intangible. A patent, for example, grants an exclusive right to use the invention covered by the patent for a period of years. If the party controlling intangible rights can exclude other enterprises from the market, or exclude them from using intangibles that provide a market advantage, that party may enjoy a high degree of market power or market influence. A party with non-exclusive rights to intangibles will not be able to exclude all competitors and will generally not have the same degree of market power or influence. Accordingly, the exclusive or non-exclusive nature of intangibles or rights in intangibles should be considered in connection with the comparability analysis.
The extent and duration of legal protection of the intangibles relevant to a particular transfer can be an important comparability consideration. Legal protections associated with some intangibles can prevent competitors from entering a particular market. For other intangibles, such as know-how or trade secrets, available legal protections may have a different nature and not be as strong or last as long. For intangibles with limited useful lives, the duration of legal protections can be important since the duration of the intangible rights will affect the expectation of the parties to a transaction with regard to the future benefits from the exploitation of the intangible. For example, two otherwise comparable patents will not have equivalent value if one expires at the end of one year while the other expires only after ten years.
The geographic scope of the intangibles or rights in intangibles will be an important comparability consideration. A global grant of rights to intangibles may be more valuable than a grant limited to one or a few countries, depending on the nature of the product, the nature of the intangible, and the nature of the markets in question.
Many intangibles have a limited useful life. The useful life of a particular intangible can be affected by the nature and duration of the legal protections afforded to the intangible, as noted above. The useful life of some intangibles can also be affected by the rate of technological change in an industry and by the development of new and potentially improved products. It may also be the case that the useful life of particular intangibles can be extended.
In conducting a comparability analysis, it will therefore be important to consider the expected useful life of the intangibles in question. In general, intangibles expected to provide market advantages for a longer period of time will be more valuable than similar intangibles providing such advantages for a shorter period of time, other things being equal. In evaluating the useful life of intangibles it is also important to consider the use being made of the intangible. The useful life of an intangible that forms a base for ongoing research and development may extend beyond the commercial life of the current generation product line based on that intangible.
In conducting a comparability analysis, it may be important to consider the stage of development of particular intangibles. It is often the case that an intangible is transferred in a controlled transaction at a point in time before it has been fully demonstrated that the intangible will support commercially viable products. A common example arises in the pharmaceutical industry, where chemical compounds may be patented, and the patents (or rights to use the patents) transferred in controlled transactions, well in advance of the time when further research, development and testing demonstrates that the compound constitutes a safe and effective treatment for a particular medical condition.
As a general rule, intangibles relating to products with established commercial viability will be more valuable than otherwise comparable intangibles relating to products whose commercial viability is yet to be established. In conducting a comparability analysis involving partially developed intangibles, it is important to evaluate the likelihood that further development will lead to commercially significant future benefits. In certain circumstances, industry data regarding the risks associated with further development can be helpful to such evaluations. However, the specific circumstances of any individual situation should always be considered.