Intellectual property strategy and support for SMEs

Ákos Cserkuti
July 10, 2024
Reading time:
3 minutes

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are one of the driving forces behind innovation and economic growth worldwide. Protecting their intellectual property is crucial for these businesses to secure their inventions and maintain a competitive edge. This article explores the significance of IP for SMEs, offering insights into effective IP management strategies, available support mechanisms, and recent trends in IP filings.

The role of intellectual property for SMEs

For many SMEs, intellectual property is a cornerstone of business strategy. This legal protection helps businesses maintain their market position and can significantly enhance their attractiveness to investors.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, SMEs often under-utilize the IP system due to perceived high costs, complexity, and limited awareness of its benefits. Although only 10% of SMEs own intellectual property rights, the 2022 SME Scoreboard also shows that almost all (93%) SMEs with registered IP rights have experienced a positive impact on their business

Different institutions also offer signposting to IP renewal service providers, communication tools, IP related training programs, IP consultancy services, business assistance services, and financial subsidies to help SMEs navigate and leverage the IP system effectively.

Financial and knowledge support for SMEs

On April 1, 2024, the European Patent Office implemented fee adjustments, including dedicated reductions for micro-entities and incentives for digitalization. Micro-enterprises, natural persons, non-profit organizations, universities, and public research organizations benefit from a 30% reduction in all main fees throughout the patent grant procedure. This initiative is part of broader efforts to make IP management more accessible and affordable for SMEs​​.

The European Commission also announced measures earlier to support SMEs through the 2020 IP Action Plan including the EU SME Fund that offers financial support in the form of partial reimbursements for certain IP costs. Strategic IP advice is available through IP scans for participants of Horizon programs and other EU research and investment programs. 

The European IP Information Centre provides access to relevant information on IP formalities and services. Additionally, specialized IP helpdesks offer tailored advice and training for SMEs across Europe, Africa, China, India, South-East Asia, and Latin America​.

Recent statistics on SMEs IP filings

Recent statistics from the European Patent Office highlight the increasing engagement of SMEs in patenting activities. In 2022, SMEs accounted for 23% of global patent applications, with notable contributions in fields such as renewable energy, medical devices, and innovative consumer products.

Shares in application originating from Europe
                                                         EPO Patent Index 2023

The European Patent Office on cleantech innovation: Financing and commercialisation of cleantech innovation report also revealed that SMEs played a pivotal role in driving innovation. Notably, patent applications in green technologies and cleantech have seen a significant rise, reflecting SMEs' commitment to sustainable innovation​.

IP for SMEs

Effective IP management not only protects innovations but also enhances competitiveness and opens new opportunities. Investing in IP protection is a strategic advantage for small and medium-sized enterprises looking to thrive in today's dynamic market.

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