Transfer of control for distinct software licences

Transfer of control for distinct software licences – IFRS 15 provides additional application guidance to help entities determine when control transfers for distinct licences of intellectual property, based on the nature of the promise to the customer. This application guidance is applicable for both perpetual and term software licences.


IFRS 15 states that entities provide their customers with either:

Transfer of control for distinct software licences


If the licence does not meet all three criteria, the licence is a right to use by default and the entity would recognise revenue at the point in time when the licence is delivered.

The key determinant of whether a licence is a right to access is whether the entity is required to undertake activities that affect the licenced … Read more

IFRS 13 Relief from royalty method

IFRS 13 Relief from royalty method – The ‘Royalty Relief’ (also known as Relief from Royalty) method is based on the notion that a brand holding company owns the brand and licenses it to an operating company.  One method to determine the market value of Intellectual Property assets like patents, trademarks, and copyrights is to use Relief from royalty method (also known as Royalty avoidance approach or Royalty Relief approach). This approach determines the value of Intellectual Property assets by estimating what it would cost the business if it had to purchase the Intellectual Property (IP) it uses from an outsider. Other valuation methods are provide here.

This approach requires the valuator to

  1. project future sales of the products
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Software as a service

What is cloud computing and more specific software as a service?

Cloud computing is essentially a model for delivering information technology services in which resources are retrieved from the internet through web-based tools and applications, rather than a direct connection to a server. Data and software packages are stored in servers. Cloud computing structures allow access to information as long as an electronic device has access to the internet.

This type of system allows employees to work remotely. Cloud computing is so named because the information being accessed is found in the ‘clouds’, and does not require a user to be in a specific place to gain access to it. Companies may find that cloud computing allows them to reduce the cost of information management, since they are not required to own their own servers and can use capacity leased from third parties. Additionally, the cloud-like structure allows companies to upgrade software more quickly.

There are various types of cloud computing arrangements. Cloud services usually fall into one of three service models: infrastructure, platform and software. Here the focus is on software as a service (SaaS).

What is SaaS?

SaaS is a software distribution model in which the customer does not take possession of the supplier’s hardware andSoftware as a service application software. Instead, customers accesses the supplier’s hardware and application software from devices over the internet or via a dedicated line. In these types of arrangements, the customer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure, including the network, servers, operating systems, storage, and even individual application software capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application software configuration settings, nor is the customer responsible for upgrades to the underlying systems and software.

The key issues

In practice, it is clear that there are various application issues relating to the customer’s accounting in SaaS arrangements. These arrangements may often be bundled with other products and services, such as implementation, data migration, business process mapping, training, and project management.

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M and A

M and A or Mergers and Acquisitions

in IFRS language Business Combinations.

1 Identifying a business combination

IFRS 3 refers to a ‘business combination’ rather than more commonly used phrases such as takeover, acquisition or merger because the objective is to encompass all the transactions in which an acquirer obtains control over an acquiree no matter how the transaction is structured. A business combination is defined as a transaction or other event in which an acquirer (an investor entity) obtains control of one or more businesses.

An entity’s purchase of a controlling interest in another unrelated operating entity will usually be a business combination (see Simple case – Straightforward business combination below). However, a business combination (M and A) may be structured, and an entity may obtain control of that structure, in a variety of ways.

Examples of business combinations structurings

Examples of ways an entity may obtain control

A business becomes the subsidiary of an acquirer

The entity transfers cash, cash equivalents or other assets(including net assets that constitute a business)

Net assets of one or more businesses are legally merged with an acquirer

The entity incurs liabilities

One combining entity transfers its net assets, or its owners transfer their equity interests, to another combining entity or its owners

The entity issues shares

The entity transfers more than one type of consideration, or

Two or more entities transfer their net assets, or the owners of those entities transfer their equity interests to a newly created entity, which in exchange issues shares, or

The entity does not transfer consideration and obtains control for example by contract alone Some examples of this:

  • ‘dual listed companies’ or ‘stapled entity structures’
  • acquiree repurchases a sufficient number of its own shares for an existing shareholder to obtain control
  • a condition in the shareholder agreement that prevents the majority shareholder exercising control of the entity has expired, or
  • a call option over a controlling interest that becomes exercisable.

A group of former owners of one of the combining entities obtains control of the combined entity, i.e. former owners, as a group, retain control of the entity they previously owned.

Therefore, identifying a business combination transaction requires the determination of whether:

  • what is acquired constitutes a ‘business’ as defined in IFRS3, and
  • control has been obtained.

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Licensing of intellectual property

Licensing of intellectual property – in summary

The standard provides application guidance for the recognition of revenue attributable to a distinct licence of intellectual property (IP).

The general model is that if the licence is distinct from the other goods or services, then an entity assesses the nature of the licence to determine whether to recognise revenue allocated to the licence at a point in time or over time and to estimate variable consideration.

But with complex topics like licensing of intellectual property, there is also guidance separate from the general model for estimating variable consideration, on the recognition of sales- or usage-based royalties on licences of IP when the licence is the sole or predominant item to which the royalty relates.

What is intellectual property?

One could say almost everything could be intellectual property! Licensing of intellectual property

Here is a description (not a definition!) from the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation):

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

IP is in general protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. A difficult balance exists between striking the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, businesses operating in IP have to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.

Just take a look at the (public) discussion between open source software (Apache OpenOffice) and licensed software (Microsoft Office365).

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Stand-alone selling price

The best evidence of standalone selling price is the price that the entity charges for the good or service in a separate transaction with a customer. However, in many cases goods or services are sold exclusively as a package with other goods or services rather than on an individual basis (e.g. nonrenewable customer support).

Constraining estimates of variable consideration

Constraining estimates of variable consideration – One of the most significant departures from prior GAAP is the treatment of variable consideration. In the past, revenue could only be recognized in the amount of the fixed or determinable portion of the sales price, not any variable consideration. The new revenue standard is instead based on the core principle that revenue isHighly probable Highly probable Highly probable Highly probable the amount the company expects to receive based upon the contract.

It allows a company to recognize estimated variable consideration as revenue subject to a “constraint” rule, which stipulates that the estimated amount must be adjusted downward to exclude any amount for which it is “probable” (U.S. GAAP) or “highly probable” (IFRS) that a significant reversal will occur. Constraining estimates Read more

Sales and Usage based royalties

Sales and Usage based royalties – IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers (contents page is here) introduced a single and comprehensive framework which sets out how much revenue is to be recognised, and when. Sales and Usage based royalties

The core principle is that a vendor should recognise revenue to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the vendor expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services. See a summary of IFRS 15 here. Sales and Usage based royalties

This section is part of step 3 determining the transaction price. When an entity earns royalties based on the extent to which a … Read more

Licences of intellectual property

Licences of intellectual property

The determination of whether a licence is distinct may require judgement. In some software arrangements, a software licence will be distinct because it is the only promise in the contract. In other Licences of intellectual propertyarrangements, the customer will be able to benefit from the licence on its own or with readily available resources and it will be separately identifiable from the other goods or services in the contract (i.e., the other goods or services are also distinct).

An example of a distinct licence is a software package that can be used on its own without customisation or modification and future upgrades are not necessary for the customer to retain continued functionality of the software for a reasonable period Read more