Companies amortize their intangible assets based upon the length of their legal life or useful life, which ever is shorter. When a company is determining the useful life of intangible assets they consider obsolescence, inadequacy, and other factors that may cause the intangible to become ineffective before the end of its legal life. The legal life may be 20 years, like for a patent, but this does not mean that the patent will be economically effective to the company for a full 20 years. Therefore the interns statement “intangible assets should always be amortized over their legal lives” is incorrect, they should be amortized by either the legal life or useful life which ever is shorter. (questionThanks for your post. You mentioned patents – what other things are considered intangible assets? )
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