[Guest post]: COVID-19 accelerates the need for SMEs to leverage their IP assets

The impact of COVID-19 on intellectual property has been discussed in Kat posts here. Another important perspective to consider is that of SMEs. Béatrix de Russé, Former Vice President Worldwide IP and Licensing at Thomson/Technicolor, Member of the IP Hall of Fame and Member of the 4iP Council Advisory Committee, provides the following thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs need to leverage their IP, and what 4IP have been doing to try and assist with this challenge.

A joint EPO-EUIPO study released last year (High Growth Firms and Intellectual Property Rights) showed that SMEs that have filed at least one IP right are 21% more likely to experience a growth period afterwards and are 10% more likely to become a high growth firm (HFG) than firms without IP rights applications. SMEs that file for IP rights at European level have an even greater likelihood (17%) of becoming an HGF.

The same research also revealed that the chances of an SME becoming an HGF increase by 33% if they use "bundles" of trademarks, patents and designs instead of one single IP right category.
Yet the legalese and red tape that surrounds IP can be enough to put off even the most ardent entrepreneurs. Too many see the field narrowly as a painful hurdle to jump for asset protection. You need to be motivated and well informed to successfully navigate the IP maze and acquiring or hiring the knowledge to do so is a drain on scarce time. If SMEs understood more instantly and clearly how IP could help grow their businesses, they might take a more strategic approach to it.

This is the logic behind the not-for-profit, 4iP Council’s work developing free interactive guides on the reasons why SMEs should use patents, copyright, trademarks and, launched today, design rights. This material strives to answers the ‘why bother?’ question for SMEs by outlining four benefits for each IP right. Each benefit is broken down into simple sub-benefits such as those for ‘Revenue’ below on ‘4 Reasons 4 Trademarks’.
Source: 4 Reasons 4 Trademarks, 4iP Council
This material is fun, condensed and addresses the ‘Why?’ but two things makes this topic worthy of The IPKat reader’s attention now:

1/ 4iP Council’s material was developed collaboratively and that’s helpful to SMEs because it breaks silos and helps them cut corners. ASTP, Bournemouth University, EPO, EUIPO, European IP Helpdesk, France Brevets, GRUR, IPIL, INPI, IPAN, INTA have all consolidated advice and resources to build it. Scratch your paw over the surface of each reason and you’ll find a set of interactive hotspots answering the ‘how to?’ question through case study references, examples, tips, orientation links, case law summaries, or data points provided by these organisations.

Hotspot content on
4 Reasons to Patent, 4iP Council
2/ Before Covid-19, SMEs represented 99% of all businesses in the European Union (EU), and they contributed 57% of the EU's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employing 67% of the working population (Annual Report on European SMEs 2018/2019, EASME, European Commission, Nov. 2019). Now, they are greatly exposed to the negative impact of the on-going epidemic outbreak. The European Investment Bank reports them to be more susceptible to disruption because of high labour-intensity and thinner liquidity reserves. “In the majority of cases they lack assets that can be disposed of, or that can be used as collateral for new credit lines,” says Allar Tankler, Corporate communication officer, European Investment Bank.

SME survival is vital to European stability and future growth so now more than ever, we should help them to understand the bottom-line value of managing their innovations and creations.

Poumba Bagheera by Axel Ferrazzini
“Chapeau” to all of those involved with this work but content creation is only half the saucer of milk. We all know of content created by marketing departments at B2B companies sitting unused. The message here is that this or any other material conveying the strategic value of IP now urgently needs to come to the attention of SMEs, innovators, in-house teams and students, for whom it is intended or of value. 

The social and economic return of existing and fresh innovation will be greater if we easily, quickly and comprehensively convince SMEs to think beyond protection and leverage their innovations to the full. So, my call to IP cats and kittens and to organisations addressing SMEs is, if you think this work hits the mark or if you have something good of your own buried away in a file or a website, reach for your mouse now and ensure such assets are put to work.
[Guest post]: COVID-19 accelerates the need for SMEs to leverage their IP assets [Guest post]: COVID-19 accelerates the need for SMEs to leverage their IP assets Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Thursday, June 04, 2020 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. The joint EPO-EUIPO study released last year has to be seen in the framework of the support given by the EPO to the UPC. European SMEs have been the fig leave behind which big industry and a select group of IP lawyers were hiding to push the UPC through. The same group is also advocating the necessity of the UPC in order to help the users of the patent system to recover from the damages caused by COVID-19. Please don't pull my leg.

    A recent research paper from Dimitris Xenos, “The Impact of the European Patent system on SMEs and National States and the Advent of Unitary Patent”, published in Prometheus, Vol. 36, No. 1 (March 2020), pp. 51-68, comes to the conclusion that “objective evidence shows that the new legal/institutional developments amplify existing imbalances in technological and economic capacities that are already observed between and within member states, and between them and non-EU states in the current global conditions of technological competition”.

    The figures used in the study, albeit older, are comparable to the actual figures, so that the conclusions in the paper are also valid today.

    One of the conclusions of the paper is that “Objective evidence has emerged, albeit ex post, showing that the position of SMEs is very weak under the EPO system as their share of annual European patents granted is less than 10% and 17% in patent applications. These statistical results contradict the official justifications of the UPP, which focus on benefits for SMEs”.

    A further one is “the democratic control of industrial property in national markets is an essential responsibility of the state. Yet, the state is being stripped of democratic control by the EU’s new, pseudo-federal patent system”.

    In all meetings I have been in which the topic IP and SMEs was discussed, it was very clear that SMEs are frighten of IP as they consider themselves as underdogs in IP matters. This is for two main reasons. Firstly they cannot afford to spend a lot of money for IP, and secondly they constantly fear the threat of litigation stemming from large companies with deep pockets. They do not have a chance against them!

    With the creation of the UPC it was question a long time ago of a kind of IP insurance for SMEs, but this idea has disappeared. Even without the UPC, the idea is worth thinking about.

    Nothing against SMEs being made more aware of IP rights, but it has to be seen in the framework of their limited budget.

    I have seen SMEs shaken by attacks from big companies, and even then, having to struggle to survive, they were in the end not able to afford patent protection.

    I would therefore consider the present guest post as not looking at the deeper roots of the problem. Offer SMEs a safety net in litigation matters would be a beginning. Offer them real incentives to invest in IP, and help them to bear the cost!

    It does not have to be for a lot of countries, but the patent they might obtain have to be solid and resisting attacks. But alas, this is not the case. Too many patents do not resist a strict scrutiny, and crumble at the first push. SMEs cannot afford huge portfolios of patents. Once one or two of their patents have been nullified, they turn their back to IP.

    One of the problems is also their absence of lobbies. If a SME closes, the number of job losses is very small. They cannot say, like the big industry, if the state does not give us money we will lay off hundreds if not thousands of people.

    That's the reality! Support for SMEs is badly needed, but also money.


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