Are you small, inventive and in need of help?

What a busy day it has been for those of us Kats who crouch intently at the Ministerial Mousehole, peering into the darkness in the hope of seeing some signs of activity other than (i) further requests for evidence-based submissions and (ii) more reviews of intellectual property.  First we hear news that the UK government is to provide on-the-ground support for British IP-driven businesses in China and that, quite literally, an attaché is on the case. Almost immediately thereafter we learn from another media release from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) that the UK government is poised to help SMEs. As the title proudly proclaims: "New measures announced by the Government today will help small and medium sized firms to protect their intellectual property and grow their business". As this BIS explains:
"The package forms part of the Government’s Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth, which has been published today. It sets out plans to boost growth through substantial investment in research and innovation across the UK.

Key actions announced today by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) include:
  • A new online business advisor training tool that will give advisors the skills and information they need to help businesses protect the value of their intellectual property [Will the government promise -- firmly and irrevocably -- that it won't launch this online tool till lets SMEs with different IP issues a chance to test-drive it?]. 
  • An online register of advisors to help businesses find the right advisor for them quickly and easily [This can be dynamite. There is no official criterion to establish who is the "right advisor" and the existing British Standard for the provision of IP commercialisation services has by no means won the universal support and affection of the IP community. Is admission to the list to be by qualification, by recommendation, by payment -- or by what?]. 
  • Consulting businesses, business advisors and IP specialists about how lower cost IP legal and commercial advice can be provided [It may be a good idea to consult clients too, as to whether there exists a discernible gap between what they pay for and what they need or use]
  • Offering free intellectual property audits to businesses through routes such as the Technology Strategy Board [So long as the audit includes third-party rights -- in which case it can often help SMEs avoid liability by taking a licence]
  • Enhancing existing schemes such as mediation to provide a more efficient dispute resolution service that can prevent potentially costly legal cases [Myth: mediation is NOT guaranteed to be more efficient or cheaper than litigation and can cost vastly more without ever leading to a resolution].
...  Measures the IPO has already taken to support SMEs following the Hargreaves Review include:
  • Announcing that a small claims process for cases under £5,000 will be introduced at the Patents County Court for cases involving copyright, trade marks and designs [patent disputes having been removed]
  • Launching Ipsum, an online patent service that could save UK business nearly £100,000 per year. It removes the cost to businesses of requesting patent documents, instead they will now be available for free online; 
  • Re-running the Fast Forward Competition which encourages Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs) to work together with businesses to share research, innovation and intellectual property (IP). £760,000 is available for winning bids to invest in research and knowledge transfer projects that have the potential to create new companies or services; and 
Merpel says, the interesting thing about this media release is not what it contains but what's missing.  She has already identified three key things that will improve the lives of SMEs and wonders if her readers can too.  Please post your observations below or email them to -- the best ones will be published on this weblog.
Are you small, inventive and in need of help? Are you small, inventive and in need of help? Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, December 08, 2011 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Few things in life are free: while all these intitiatives (and IP attachés) are being funded by the IPO, the IPO derives all its income from its customers.

    On the positive side, this ought to mean that its services should not be affected by any government-imposed, across-the-board, manpower cutting targets, because the IPO is not funded from central government.


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