US vs NESTLE HOLDINGS INC, July 1998, Court of Appeal, 2nd Circuit, Docket Nos 96-4158 and 96-4192

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In this case, experts had utilized the relief-from-royalty method in the valuation of trademarks. On this method the Court noted:

In our view, the relief-from-royalty method necessarily undervalues trademarks. The fair market value of a trademark is the price a willing purchaser would have paid a willing seller to buy the mark…The relief-from-royalty model does not accurately estimate the value to a purchaser of a trademark.

Royalty models are generally employed to estimate an infringer’s profit from its misuse of a patent or trademark… Resort to a royalty model may seem appropriate in such cases because it estimates fairly the cost of using a trademark…

However, use of a royalty model in the case of a sale is not appropriate because it is the fair market value of a trademark, not the cost of its use, that is at issue. A relief-from-royalty model fails to capture the value of all of the rights of ownership, such as the power to determine when and where a mark may be used, or moving a mark into or out of product lines. It does not even capture the economic benefit in excess of royalty payments that a licensee generally derives from using a mark. Ownership of a mark is more valuable than a license because ownership carries with it the power and incentive both to put the mark to its most valued use and to increase its value. A licensee cannot put the mark to uses beyond the temporal or other limitations of a license and has no reason to take steps to increase the value of a mark where the increased value will be realized by the owner. The Commissioner’s view, therefore, fundamentally misunderstands the nature of trademarks and the reasons why the law provides for exclusive rights of ownership in a mark. Given the shortcomings of the relief-from-royalty methodology, the Tax Court erred when it adopted the Commissioner’s trademark valuations. The Tax Court is instructed to examine alternate methods of determining the fair market value of the trademarks in question.

NESTLE HOLDINGS INC v CIR July 31 1998 2nd Circuit Docket Nos 96-4158 and 96-4192

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