Locating the assets of a business can be incredibly difficult, because assets can be held in many ways. For example, business assets can be held legally in a foreign country, as a corporate shell, or a personal trust. Some are liquid, i.e., cash or easily converted into cash; while others are intangible, i.e., lacking a physical presence and hard to place a value on. And still others may be hidden, either by choice or due to financial protection laws. Hiding business assets is so much easier than hiding personal assets, because one can create new umbrella accounts and shell companies to hide money. The only way to locate business assets is to start finding the ‘dots’ and then begin to connect them.

In this 5-part series, we will examine how to conduct an assets investigation and offer some practical search procedures, including Real Property, Personal Property, Aircraft and Computers, Investments and Trusts (Financial Assets), and Intellectual Property. This week, we look at intellectual property and provide examples of how to search for and investigate them.

Trademark Searching with Markify

One is able to search U.S. trademarks on the TESS system of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website for free. Sure, free is great, but unless you did this often and have a clear grasp of Boolean logic and the odd TESS menu items, it’s difficult to search in the TESS system. Markify has a ProSearch which covers U.S., German, Nordic, EU, and other trademark databases.

Founded in December 2010, mathematicians, linguists, and computer scientists developed Markify’s trademark search algorithm from a statistical analysis of over 8,000 cases in which a government official had ruled that two trademarks were “confusingly similar.” Regularly updated to adapt to new markets, the Sweden-based tech company boasts hundreds of legal firms and brand owners as clients. A 2011 study by ipPerformance Group found that Markify performed 97.3% better than other comparable tools such as CT Coresearch, CSC, Trademarkia, Thompson CompuMark, and USPTO.

This fee-based service also monitors top level domain names of websites and trademark reports on companies from which you expect to see new marks. You might want to first try Markify’s free service, called Old Free Search, to gauge your need and use.

Make sure to obtain all the UCC records for the company and individual.

In asset investigation or debt recovery work, have a clear starting point for your attack. Document everything—even the smallest detail—you find. Save all your files. A random mention of flying lessons on a social media page may, a few months later, prompt you to search for aircraft tail numbers.

Pair your excellent searcher skills with some of these professional tools reviewed here and watch how your report fills out.


KnowEm is a useful site for monitoring a brand, product, personal name or username in real-time across over 500 social media sites. KnowEm also enables you to check the use of  your target within the United States Patent and Trademark Office database—useful, for example, if you have a client who is trying to establish a brand name, or alternatively, a client who has had their brand name stolen.

KnowEm offers four pricing plans: $84.95 Personal Essential, $249 Business Starter, $349 Corporate Starter, and $649 Corporate Complete.


If your new client has hired you to monitor its brand online from a variety of sources—social media, blogging, and news reports—the one-stop online shop, Keyhole, is an ideal platform. By entering keywords, hashtags, or URLs, you can track what people are saying about the brand on the Surface and Dark Web. Social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Results provide real-time analytics, influencer metrics, and hashtags relevant to your campaign in an easily readable dashboard report.

Keyhole offers five pricing plans: Professional (starting at $199/month), Team (starting at $349/month), Corporate (starting at $599/month), Agency (starting at $999/month), and Enterprise (contact for a quote). They also offer a free seven-day trial which includes access to all the features included in the Agency plan, with a 1,000 post limit. Historical data is only available with the Enterprise plan, however, historical data can be purchased on per-project basis.

A sample search on Audi yielded the following message: “Compiling sample stats. This may take a couple of minutes while we slice & dice the data,” and these results: 797 posts and 746 users over a two-day period with a dashboard including, but not limited to, a word cloud and chart of posting locations.

Engage Hg for your asset investigative needs!

With over twenty-five years of global experience tracking down the money, Hetherington Group conducts asset investigations unique to your needs. With hyper-focus and scientific precision, our seasoned professional analysts scour hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic resources to provide you the data you need to protect your assets and recover those you’ve lost.


Like what you’re reading? Check out Hg’s monthly webinars!

Throughout the year, Hetherington Group offers monthly live webinars on current investigative tactics involving social networks, search engines, due diligence, the dark web, and other related topics. Participants should have some basic experience of the topic, as all programs are offered at an intermediate level, unless otherwise noted.