Blog post

Protecting your IP rights - are small businesses savvy?


Over the last 2 weeks we have seen a couple of important IP stories in the news.

First was an EU court’s decision in favour of Sky TV over Skype meaning that the latter are unable to register a trademark. At the end of last week Ericsson filed three lawsuits against Apple in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands as the phone giants have been unable to reach a licensing agreement for its patents.

The emergence of these two clashing isn’t new – with 42.7% of the global smartphone market between them, Apple and Samsung have had a long running row over IP assets.

With digital communication becoming more and more dominant in our lives it is perhaps not surprising that these technology companies are leading the way in ensuring their assets are protected. The EPO’s 2014 Annual Report clearly indicated the importance these brands place on patent applications with both Samsung and Ericsson in the top 10 applicants with over 3500 applications between them.

However, it is not just digital communication technology that is seeing an increase in the number of applications – indicating that businesses are becoming more aware of the need to protect their most important business assets. Medical technology, biotechnology, measurement instruments and even consumer goods saw increases in 2014.

We can safely say that the bigger brands are fully aware of the need for protection but can the same be said of small to medium sized businesses?

Insight from the Intellectual Property Office in 2014 suggested that although Intellectual Property is one of the most valuable assets, it remains under-exploited, especially with SMEs. They noted that a survey carried out by Clifton Asset Management showed that only 6% of businesses value their IP at anything more than 10% of their business assets.

This report was from 2012. We think that over the past few years more and more companies are waking up to the importance of protecting their interests and not viewing properly protected IP as a luxury.

First, this seems apparent in the increased number of filings across the board - not only from the larger corporations.

Second, we have noted an increased amount of competition with smaller firms starting up and law firms taking on IP work. This suggests that there is an increased need for the service. 

We have also noticed a gradual change in the role of a Patent or Trademark Attorney. There is an increased focus on commercial acumen and business development skills on top of the high level of technical ability.

All three of these indicate an increased amount of competition and work within IP. Is it because smaller companies are becoming IP savvy and protecting their assets? Or is there still a long way to go before these businesses recognise the importance of managing their IP portfolio?



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