For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

UFO? No, L2Pro: new tool for SMEs

Best thing about the
coffee: it was in a mug
"Helping UK Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises succeed in a global marketplace" was the title of a breakfast briefing which provided this Kat with his first cup of coffee of the day: the venue, the InterContinental Hotel [hmm, too close to InContinental to be a truly successful brand, mewses Merpel], St James Park, Central London. Those of us who were invited were all, or almost all, on our best behaviour, as is usually the case in any event where the foyer staff and cloakroom attendants sound as though they've been educated at Eton and Oxford. The flavour of everything but the coffee (which was dreadful) was mainly German, though, with bits of American and British thrown in for good measure.

The UK IPO: the motif on the left symbolises
the main product of Wales, where the IPO
is based -- rain drops
Ceri Witchard (Deputy Director of Innovation, UK IPO) was the first substantive speaker. "There are lots of SMEs out there who are doing well and we want to provide them with the tools to succeed", she opened -- at which this Kat feared that Ceri shared a speech-writer with whoever has scripted speeches for the past few Ministers for Intellectual Property.  Thereafter, things got considerably better. SMEs receive too much information and can't make sense of it, Ceri continued, outlining the two key elements in her work: (i) how to educate SMEs as to what IP can and can't do, and (ii) how to provide a business advisory side, this being as much at the level of asking "have you thought of ...?" questions rather than just giving answers, as well as putting SMEs in touch with the many business support schemes which already exist and which have already been trained by the IPO.

Next up was Dr Helmut Appel ( Fraunhofer -- an admirable innovation promotion organisation which was first mentioned on this weblog as long ago as September 2005 and which could well serve as a model for other countries to copy).  Dr Appel spoke about the function of his organisation and outlined the "L2Pro SME Training Platform", a four-way initiative to create a 3G mobile-enabled facility for SMEs to learn about intellectual property on an interactive need-to-know basis while they were doing exciting things like, er, getting on with their real work and not attending endless IP briefings.  The L2Pro project, which the IPO hopes will soon bring benefits to the United Kingdom too, is also supported by Qualcomm and Inno Actions IP4Inno (now transferred to EACI) [the Kat thinks EACI is the Executive Agency for Competitive and Innovation, but he's prepared to be corrected; there were a lot of acronyms in the air, it was very early in the morning and the coffee was disappointing ...].

The final formal speaker, Derek Aberle (Executive Vice President of Qualcomm), provided a potted history of Qualcomm and how important its IP was to it when it was still a tiddler. Qualcomm's expertise has gone into the L2Pro SME training platform.  We all nodded sagely, of course, the audience being made up primarily of IP believers of one sort of another.

What this Kat liked best was the Q&A session, at which the speakers were, inter alia, grilled as to their lack of familiarity with criminal sanctions for patent infringement and firmly reproached for having said nothing about second-tier protection for innovations (one of this Kat's favourite hobby-horses right now (click here if further proof is required). Someone managed to ask a question about the user interface for L2Pro and whether it was as able to assist SME users who were faced with other people's IP rights rather than trying to assert or develop their own ("yes", was Dr Appel's reassuring answer) but, for the most part, the questions went a good deal wider than the organisers of the briefing might reasonably have expected.  Must have been the coffee ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having recently discussed with a strategy firm the idea of selling IP strategy consultancy to small research companies, its clear that SME's are difficult people to sell advice to because they have little money and because they don't know what IP advice they need.

Unfortunately I am of the opinion that patent attorneys do not give the most objective advice since it is tainted with their own aim of getting the client to file as many patent applications as possible. I believe that far too many small research companies are spending more on their patent portfolio than they need to. I wish the UKIPO well in finding out how best to help SME's in this area.

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