The second richest person in the world is credited as having said: “Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.” Forbes in January 2014 ranks Bill Gates, aged 58, as worth US$57 billion. IP can have the shelf life of a banana. That has not been the case for Mr Gates.

The wealth Mr Gates has amassed remains largely shares he holds in Microsoft. He remains the richest man in the United States.

How long has Microsoft’s legal title to intellectual property lasted?

All our Microsoft Office programs have copyright notices asserting copyright from 1980s to date. Microsoft also has hundreds of trade mark registrations which if kept registered will have no expiry date, potentially comprising ntellectual property held forever. As for its patents I am sure they will run their effective legal and commercial life measured in decades.

Possibly, instead of “a banana”, Mr Gates meant to say “the Big Banana“. It too churns dollars with its brand (intellectual property) and goodwill in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. It has done so since its launch in 1964. In 2014 it celebrates 40 years in business.

Others in the top 10 list of Forbes billionaires whose wealth is built with intellectual property are Larry Ellison (Oracle), aged 69, worth US$43 billion; Liliane Bettencourt & family (L’Oreal), aged 90, worth US$30 billion; and Bernard Arnault (LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton), aged 64, worth US$29 billion. Shelf life of a banana? Yes, sometimes.

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Noric Dilanchian