DSS Technology Management, Inc. v. Apple Inc.
In re: Brandt

Spireas v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

This appeal requires us to decide whether royalties paid on a technology license agreement should have been treated as ordinary income or as capital gains. The distinction is significant for taxpayers like the Appellant, Dr. Spiridon Spireas, who earned $40 million in such royalties over just two tax years. If those earnings were ordinary income, Spireas owed a 35 percent tax; if they were capital gains he owed 15 percent.

Spireas claimed the favorable capital gains treatment pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 1235(a), which applies to money received “in consideration of” “[a] transfer . . . of property consisting of all substantial rights to a patent.” The Commissioner of Internal Revenue disagreed that Spireas was entitled to § 1235(a) treatment, finding that Spireas should have treated the royalties as ordinary income. Accordingly, the Commissioner gave Spireas notice of a $5.8 million deficiency for the 2007 and 2008 tax years. Spireas petitioned the Tax Court for a redetermination of the deficiency, but after a brief trial the Tax Court agreed with the Commissioner. Spireas appeals that final order.

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