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The value of intellectual property

Intellectual property can be incredibly important in a divorce, especially when it comes to future earnings.

Take, for example, the case between actor Michael Douglas and his wife. When they divorced back in 2000, Douglas had already been in "Wall Street" back in 1987. He said he'd pay his wife half of the money he made as an actor during their time together, and she'd also get money for spinoffs from those movies.

The couple has now been fighting over the divorce for over a decade, in part because of the 2010 film "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." It is unclear if the movie should be categorized as a spinoff or if it's actually a sequel, meaning she wouldn't earn anything from it.

Now, most couples won't run into this exact situation, of course, but it does show how important intellectual property rights can be—and how complex they can be.

For the general public, there are four main things to consider:

-- Patents on products and designs-- Trademarks-- Copyrights-- Royalty payments

For example, an author who writes a novel and releases it during his or her marriage may make most of the money up front, but that novel could keep selling for years or even decades after the initial publication. It could be adopted as a movie or TV show. All of these things can bring in future income based on the original novel.

Intellectual property rights do not only apply to creative industries like music, movies and novels, though, but also to business owners, inventors, entrepreneurs, and more. Be sure you know how these rights work and what they could mean for your divorce in Texas.

Source: Forbes, "The Big Thing Celebrities Fight Most About When They Divorce-And Why You Should, Too," Jeff Landers, accessed Feb. 26, 2016

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