What is Service Potential?

Service Potential

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Service Potential

Service potential refers to the total capacity or ability of a specific asset, particularly an intangible asset, to provide benefits in the form of services over its useful or economic life. This concept is frequently associated with assets like patents, trademarks, copyrights, and licenses. Since these assets don’t have a physical presence like tangible assets (e.g., machinery or buildings), their value is derived from the potential services or benefits they can render over time.

In accounting and financial reporting, service potential is often used as a rationale for amortizing intangible assets. Amortization is similar to depreciation, but it’s applied to intangible assets. As an intangible asset provides benefits or services over its economic life, a portion of its initial cost is expensed through amortization, thereby reflecting the gradual consumption or diminishment of its service potential.

For instance, if a company purchases a patent that has a 10-year legal life, the patent’s service potential is 10 years. Over these years, the patent provides the company with the exclusive right to produce or sell a particular product, protecting it from competition. As the years go by, the remaining service potential of the patent diminishes until it eventually expires or becomes obsolete.

Understanding and assessing service potential is crucial for managers and accountants because it helps in:

  • Determining appropriate amortization schedules: The periodic amortization expense is based on the expected consumption of the asset’s service potential.
  • Asset impairment assessments: If there’s evidence that the future service potential of an intangible asset has diminished significantly (perhaps due to technological advancements or market changes), the asset might be deemed impaired, requiring a write-down.
  • Investment and strategic decisions: Recognizing the service potential of intangible assets can influence decisions related to further investments, renewal, or divestment.

Example of Service Potential

Let’s use the example of a software company that acquires a unique license for a particular algorithm.

Company: SoftTech Innovations

Asset Acquired: A 5-year exclusive license to utilize a cutting-edge data compression algorithm.

Cost of License: $500,000


SoftTech Innovations recognizes the license’s service potential to be 5 years, as that’s the duration of the exclusivity. The license allows the company to develop and sell software products with significantly better data compression capabilities than competitors.


Given the 5-year service potential, SoftTech Innovations decides to amortize the license’s cost over that period. With straight-line amortization:

Annual Amortization Expense = $500,000 ÷ 5 years = $100,000

Each year, SoftTech Innovations will recognize an amortization expense of $100,000, representing the consumption of the license’s service potential.

Impairment Consideration:

Three years into using the license, a new, more advanced algorithm becomes publicly available. This new algorithm offers superior compression rates. Given the change, SoftTech Innovations assesses the service potential of their original license. They determine that its value and benefits have diminished considerably.

In light of this, SoftTech Innovations decides to conduct an impairment test. They find that the license’s remaining service potential and value have dropped to $50,000, considering the remaining 2 years.

Consequently, SoftTech Innovations records an impairment loss of $150,000 (the carrying amount of $200,000 minus the revised value of $50,000).


By understanding and monitoring the service potential of the license, SoftTech Innovations managed its financial reporting appropriately, ensuring that the intangible asset’s value on the balance sheet accurately reflects its true worth to the company.

This example showcases the relevance of the “service potential” concept, especially in industries where intangible assets play a significant role in operations and value creation.

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