Trademarks can have no value, or can be very valuable indeed – it all depends on the business associated with the mark!
Because trademarks represent consumer recognition and goodwill, they can be extraordinarily valuable assets, both in absolute terms and as a portion of a company’s overall value. For example, in 2015, marketing experts Interbrand estimated the value of the APPLE brand at $170 billion (of a $646 billion market capitalization), GOOGLE at $120 billion (of $493b), and COCA-COLA at $78 billion (of $180b). Marks used for products or services that never gain traction in the marketplace, by contrast, may have essentially no value.
Trademarks are somewhat unique as a type of intellectual property because a trademark can last forever, so long as it remains in use and does not become non-distinctive for the product or service for which it is used. This longevity can significantly impact the value of trademarks as assets.
For example, the DISNEY mark will be protectable for so long as the company continues to use it. Its value grows or shrinks based on the continuing quality of the company’s products and services. Compare this to patents, which protect novel ideas for 20 years, and to copyright, which protects unique expressions of ideas, and where most corporate-created works are protected for 95 years. The value of, say, “Steamboat Willy,” the original Mickey Mouse cartoon, will drop substantially when that cartoon is no longer protected from copying; the mouse ears as a trademark, by contrast, can retain their value for as long as they remain a source identifier.