Locating the assets of a business can be incredibly difficult, because assets can be held in many, many ways. Among the many creative money management methods available, business assets can be legally held in a foreign country, as a corporate shell, or a personal trust. Some are liquid—cash or easily converted into cash. While some are intangible—lacking a physical presence and may be hard to place a value upon. And still others may be hidden—cleverly by choice to hide wealth or hard to find because of government 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.

Typical assets controlled by a business include: Real Property; Personal Property; Investments and Trusts (Financial Assets); Intellectual Property; and Subsidiaries/Spin-offs.

In our 5-Part Industry Undercover series, we will examine how to conduct an assets investigation and offer some practical search procedures follows. 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.

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