IP enforcement and SMEs: the truth!

While the IPKat is generally viewed as a fairly lively and sometimes irreverent didactic news-and-comment blog, it doesn't hurt to remind readers that the various members of the blogging team are also serious IP folk in their own right: intellectual property practitioners, academics and even members of the judiciary. On this occasion team member Jeremy would like to take this fleeting opportunity to assert his serious academic credentials for change by announcing the publication on the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) website of "Intellectual Property Enforcement in Smaller UK Firms". This report was commissioned by the late and largely unlamented Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy (SABIP) as "an independent input to evidence for policy".

The report, 105 pages in length, was completed and submitted in the spring of 2010 but took six months to end up online -- presumably so that a pretty picture of a gavel (right) could be added to the title page and repeated on pages 2 and 105 (this is for the benefit of readers who pay for their own print cartridges and resent wasting them).

While the IPKat had a paw in the legal bits of this report, it was very much a team effort and the lion's share of the input came from those who compiled and interpreted the survey responses of a good quantity of SME folk. The full team consisted of (in alphabetical order) Christine Greenhalgh, Jeremy Phillips, Robert Pitkethly, Mark Rogers and Joshua Tomalin on behalf of the Intellectual Property Institute. The team's concluding comments -- which contain nothing that should shock the IP-conscious readership of this weblog -- read as follows:
"This research may have suffered from the fact that IPR is not the most critical management issue for most small firms. However, any IPR system that is required to work as well for small firms as for large companies must provide a low cost and efficient means of dispute resolution as part of the consideration of the needs of SMEs generally (e.g. WIPO, 2004).

The survey data and case study interviews in this report suggest that particular care must be taken to meet the needs of the small firm user of the IP system. This goes beyond official fee reductions and should take account of the limited resources – financial and otherwise - that small firms face when dealing with the IP system. An effective response is likely to include not just lowering costs but also addressing the complexity of litigation for small firms at the same time as raising their awareness especially of ways to avoid litigation in the first place.

The report also highlights the possibility of longer term studies on solutions to the problems of IP litigation insurance, overseas IP litigation by small firms and whilst continuing efforts to raise IP awareness also focus it on those sectors and channels of communication where small firms will be able to benefit most from it".
The IPKat first heard that this report had been published when he received a media circular from the IPO on 29 October.  Since then, everything seems to be very quiet.  A Google News search couldn't find anyone reporting or commenting on it; the Intellectual Property Institute's old website is moribund and -- unless the Kat has missed something -- there doesn't seem to be anything yet on the website of the Institute's new home in the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute (QMIPRI).  There is no comment from the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) or indeed anyone else.

Says Merpel, this research cost the British taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds, but no-one seems the slightest bit interested in it.  Could it be because it was a project that no-one wanted or needed, since what it did was to establish that small businesses have less money and fewer resources for enforcing their IP than do bigger ones -- something which could have been guessed at anyway -- or was it because the Curse of SABIP is hanging over it?
IP enforcement and SMEs: the truth! IP enforcement and SMEs: the truth! Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. "This research may have suffered from the fact that IPR is not the most critical management issue for most small firms."

    If they don't care why should anyone else?

    Point 4 of the UK IPO Review, will look at.

    "The cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing services to help them protect and exploit their IP."

    More wasted resources?

    When will these numpties get it that cost is not the issue. SMEs outside of the UK notably Europe and US embrace IP.

    Securing IP is as cheap in the UK as it is anywhere else. In fact it's a lot cheaper.

    The important issue is that they don't care about IP because they are ignorant about the role of IP and Wallace and Gromit are not improving matters for some bizzare reason.


  2. Government departments regularly commission studies about the needs of SMEs - some delving into www.accountingweb.co.uk should reveal a few.

    Everytime, amazingly, it turns out that SMEs are largely preoccupied with cashflow and taxes and not much else.

    Elsewhere we read that the table stake for playing IP poker in Court is $4 million

    Is the solution really IP insurance? (good for lawyers but who else?) It reminds me of the study into M&A (Patrick Barwise) which showed by implication that it benefited neither the subject nor the object but only the fee-takers.

    Is it really impossible to look at all this only from the perspective of improving the operation of the current approach to IP and its protection?

    Have I mentioned software patents and the trouble they cause in the USA recently? Is anyone here going to comment on Oracle v everybody, Microsoft v Motorola, Apple v Nokia?


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