Intangible assets are more valuable than physical property for many businesses, yet the management of the risks involved tends to be fragmented and little coordinated across companies, according to Ma

Hogg said that US businesses hold nearly $7trn of intangible assets, of which intellectual property, such as trademarks and patents, represents about one-quarter. That licensing revenues have increased by 700% over the last 15 years shows how intellectual property has grown in importance.

Intellectual property is one of the most contentious issues for business, Hogg warned. About 24% of legal disputes go to trial, compared to less than 10% for general business litigation.

"You need to understand many levels in the organisation to see what they are worth, how best to protect them and then to transfer some of that risk if you want," he told the European Risk Forum, organised in London by Lloyd's.

Yet, he said, it has been estimated that only 5% of companies believe they have a rigorous programme to identify and track their intellectual property, and only 40 % believe they know the true value of these assets.

When it comes to managing intellectual property risks, disparate groups are involved. Lawyers have drafted the documents and do not want to believe they can go wrong. The risk manager has a broad view of the business but probably does not get involved in all aspects of intangible assets. The finance director does not want to spend money on intellectual property insurance.

Not every aspect of intellectual property is insurable, but Hogg believes there is room for more use of risk transfer to manage the exposures. The market for stand alone intellectual property insurance peaked at $20m a year, compared to the trillions of assets. "It is an incredible gulf," Hogg commented.