A California kindergarten teacher is now $15.6 million richer due to a previously unknown intangible asset: his photo. As a story in the LA Times relates, it turns out that this gentleman was a former model and actor who
happened to come face to face with himself on a label for Nestle's Taster's Choice.
"What am I doing on this jar?" he thought as he looked at the picture of a clearly satisfied coffee drinker peering into his cup.
Then he remembered: In 1986, he had posed for a photographer on assignment for Nestle. He was paid a modest amount for his time and assumed that nothing ever came of the two-hour shoot.
As the result of a lawsuit, a jury awarded him $330,000 for use of the photo and 5% of the profit ($15.3 million) in damages.
Before you start yelling about frivolous lawsuits, think about this. Apparently, Nestle first tried to claim that he had been paid in full for the photo shoot and then tried to claim it wasn't even him. My guess is that their stonewalling significantly upped the price tag.
Moral of the story: your intangible assets may be worth only what a court says they are worth.