An intangible asset is an identifiable non-monetary asset, without physical substance, held for use in the production or supply of goods or services, for rental to others, or for administrative purposes.
The key components of the definition are:
- Identifiability; and
- Asset (the definition of which encompasses control).
Enterprises frequently expend resources, or incur liabilities, on the acquisition, development, maintenance or enhancement of intangible resources such as scientific or technical knowledge, design and implementation of new processes or systems, licences, intellectual property, market knowledge and trademarks. Not all the items described above will meet the definition of an intangible asset, that is, identifiability, control over a resource and expectation of future economic benefits flowing to the enterprise. If an item covered by this Statement does not meet the definition of an intangible asset, expenditure to acquire it or generate it internally is recognised as an expense when it is incurred. In some cases, an asset may incorporate both intangible and tangible elements that are, in practice, inseparable. Judgement is required to assess as to which element is predominant. If use of physical assets is possible only with the intangible part of it, they are treated as Fixed Assets like Operating system for computers. If physical element is just to support intangible part of it, they are treated as intangible assets.
The definition of an intangible asset requires that an intangible asset be identifiable. To be identifiable, it is necessary that the intangible asset is clearly distinguished from goodwill. An intangible asset can be clearly distinguished from goodwill if the asset is separable. An asset is separable if the enterprise could rent, sell, exchange or distribute the specific future economic benefits attributable to the asset without also disposing of future economic benefits that flow from other assets used in the same revenue earning activity.
Though Separability is not a necessary condition for identifiability. If an asset generates future economic benefits only in combination with other assets, the asset is identifiable if the enterprise can identify the future economic benefits that will flow from the asset.
An enterprise controls an asset if the enterprise has the power to obtain the future economic benefits flowing from the underlying resource and also can restrict the access of others to those benefits. The capacity of an enterprise to control the future economic benefits from an intangible asset would normally stem from legal rights that are enforceable in a court of law. However, legal enforceability of a right is not a necessary condition for control since an enterprise may be able to control the future economic benefits in some other way.
Market and technical knowledge may give rise to future economic benefits. An enterprise controls those benefits if, for example, the knowledge is protected by legal rights such as copyrights, a restraint of trade agreement or by a legal duty on employees to maintain confidentiality. Future economic benefit is also flown from the skill of labour and customer loyalty but usually this flow of benefits cannot be controlled by the enterprise. As employees may quit the concern anytime or even loyal customers may decide to purchase goods and services from other suppliers. Moreover these items don’t even qualify as intangible asset as per the definition given in this AS.