A new report published by the European Patent Office (EPO) has revealed that small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are making good use of the European patent system to protect their inventions and they are successfully commercialising about two-thirds of them. However, the data also reveals that further support is needed in some areas, according to European intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers.
Among the key findings, one in five patent applications filed at the EPO in 2018 were submitted by a European SME or individual. The majority said they were seeking protection for inventions that they perceive to have high commercial potential. Of these applications, two-thirds relate to inventions that are already being exploited commercially - about half of them exclusively and half as part of a collaboration agreement. The remaining applications were made for inventions that are still under development.
Karl Barnfather, chairman of Withers & Rogers, said:
“The data provided in this new ‘commercialisation scorecard’ is compelling evidence that SMEs in Europe are using patent protection to prevent competitors from copying their inventions, to build a reputation in their target markets and to secure a period of exclusivity.
“About half of them are also using their European patents to support them in securing potentially-lucrative licensing agreements with third parties or other commercial contracts.”
The report acknowledges that European SMEs have been responsible for some important inventions in diverse fields such as pharmaceuticals, medical technology, clean energy, electronics and computing. Due to their lack of resources however, many SMEs opt to exploit their inventions through collaborations with partners.
Karl Barnfather added:
“There are pros and cons attached to working collaboratively. Naturally, commercial returns will be diluted, but the reality is that many SMEs would be unable to bring their inventions to market without them.
“However, there are important considerations for SMEs when entering into collaborations. For example, they should be clear about ownership of IP rights from the start. Existing IP should be patent protected and shared under the terms of a non-disclosure agreement. The shared ownership of any future IP should be agreed at the outset too.”
The report identifies the need for more support for SMEs seeking to commercialise their inventions internationally. It is common practice for SMEs to target business partners in the territories where they are seeking market entry and a European patent, which spans up to 44 countries, can provide useful protection in this regard.
“Intellectual property strategists can support SMEs in establishing collaborative partnerships with partners overseas on the right terms; enabling them to achieve their commercial objectives,” concluded Karl Barnfather.
"Intellectual property strategists can support SMEs in establishing collaborative partnerships with partners overseas on the right terms enabling them to achieve their commercial objectives."
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