The principle issues surrounding intellectual property development, its protection and enforcement are the same for all SMEs, however, the specifics of how they should be approached will be unique to each. The approach to IP protection outlined is relevant to all SMEs and not only those dealing with ASEAN. As with many other issues, a few basic actions can go a long way and IP is no exception.
Helpdesk customers fall into broad customer profile types. The Helpdesk provides common information services relevant to each customer profile. If you have specific questions or queries you are encouraged to use our website to ask a question.
IP - The Basics
The first step in developing the value of IP in your business and managing risk is to build awareness within your company, particularly amongst senior management and the board, about what is IP? This will help you to answer an important strategic business issue of why protect IP? It is true that many companies have developed valuable IP without recognising it, and risk it as a result. Both questions require ongoing review as your business evolves, and are key to understanding how to protect IP .
IPR to suit you
Developing a tailored IPR approach will depend on your company´s sector of operation, your market positioning, your size and your stage of development, particularly with regards to your business with ASEAN. These issues will determine the value of IP within your company. By this stage, IP protection must already have been understood at both board and management levels so that IP enters the mainstream business process.
Developing an IPR Strategy
You wouldn´t think of starting a business without a HR strategy, market strategy or financing strategy, and for many SMEs an IP strategy is just as important for planning growth and minimising risk. Regardless of the stage of your business with ASEAN; be it in early planning or well-developed over many years, it is important to have in place an IP Strategy. This will require you to put in place a series of steps including:
- IP Audit: to assess your current IP status and development needs. Through this you will be able to set out your priorities and rank internal IP assets.
- Having completed an IP Audit you can put in place effective IP Policy and processes as part of the business process and IP quality control. In the early stages of developing the IP strategy, it may appear complicated and time consuming; however, to grow value in your IP assets this must become routine business practice.
- Implementing IP protection must be incorporated into your relationships with all of your stakeholder groups which broadly includes suppliers, distributors, cooperation partners, customers and your employees, particularly where these relationships relate to technology transfer or transfer of business knowledge.
- Business to business promotion must be reviewed to ensure effective risk management.
- At the same time, you need to understand the procedures and investments related to the registration of your IP rights and the monitoring of their enforcement.
What if your IP is infringed?
It is recommended that a standard operating procedure be put in place when you encounter an IP enforcement problem, for example, in relation to how to investigate the problem or how you might select an IP partner company. All the elements described here should be considered as an ongoing cycle of development which will be more manageable when your senior team actively builds an awareness and understanding of external factors, such as technological advances or competitive trends.
Assessing your IP
What is an IP Audit?
An IP Audit gives you an overview of the IP owned and/or used by your company.
Why do you need an IP Audit?
An overview of your IP will enable you to determine how important your IP is for your business and what is the value to your business. An IP audit is especially important when deciding to expand the business outside your home market.
- Once you have audited what your IP is it will enable you to manage your IP to maximise value and competitiveness by enabling you to create an IP strategy that works for your company in the short and long term.
- Such a strategy would include determining the extent to which your IP should be registered. Your IP filing strategy should reflect your business needs and take into account both domestic and worldwide strategies. Depending on your company's products and business plan, as well as financial constraints, it may be worth considering also filing certain IP outside of your core markets, taking into account the increasing spread of piracy and counterfeit production of goods.
- Registration ensures legal protection and the ability to enforce as well as reap the financial benefits of licensing your IP to others.
What would be included in an IP Audit?
IP assets you need to consider include any registered and unregistered trademarks, copyrights, designs or patents as well as licenses to third parties, and licenses from third parties. For more information about the types of IP please go to the 'Country Profiles’ factsheets. You may also consider elements such as work manuals, databases, recipes, franchise agreements, publications, product/process know-how, marketing materials and more. For an example of issues to include in an IP audit please visit the following website: http://www.wipo.int/sme/en/documents/ip_audit.htm.
How do I carry out an IP Audit?
The first question to be answered is whether your company has IP? No matter the line of business that your SME is in, it is almost certainly in the possession of, or generating, some kind of intellectual property, whether it is a trade name, confidential information or other type.
To carry out an IP audit consider the following aim to create an overview of all IP used in your business, acquired, used and owned in your business by:
- Outlining all of your company's business activities, including areas such as sales, marketing, manufacturing and any other activities.
- For each of those business activities, make an overview of all types of products delivered by your company, including not just the products themselves but also which types of printed material, designs, logos, trade names, product names etc. that you use in your marketing, consumer and other communications.
- List all known specific technology that goes into making your product, whether the technology is yours or licensed to you by someone else. Make a list of all affiliated companies and business partners that you are currently working with and who may be using your technology to produce your company's products either by license or otherwise.
Examples of questions to ask during your IP Audit
- Does your business use a name or logo?
- Do you use any information in your business that you regard confidential? (For example, product formulas, pricing information, financial data etc.)?
- Do you use product names in your sales process?
- Does your company create processes or design tools, machines, graphics, advertising?
- Are your products or packaging unique in some way compared to competitive products?
- Does your company have a website and do you use flyers, catalogues and similar materials?
What is the value of my IP? Issues to consider include: the contribution the asset makes to the business, the license value and the amount invested to develop the asset. Also consider how much you would be willing to invest to enforce against infringement. To come up with an accurate assessment of value, you may also consider discussing with an experienced financial advisor or IP lawyer.
Consider if you need professional help once you have an overview of the various IP assets in your company, in order to decide on the appropriate way to protect it, consider enlisting the support of an IP professional. It is advisable to ensure that the IP professional you choose possesses knowledge of your technical field and is willing to take into account the resource constraints that are often faced by SMEs. Information on finding the right of IP lawyer is available in the 'Finding the Right Lawyer' guide.
What support is available for European SMEs?
In the EU, an estimated 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for approximately 70% of EU jobs and GDP, and their flexibility is seen as a major motor of future innovation and job creation. The innovation and growth potential of European SMEs is pivotal for the prosperity of the EU as a whole. However, in the global marketplace, it is becoming increasingly difficult for SMEs to develop and maintain a competitive advantage. Great business ideas need access to an array of business tools and support to remain one step ahead of the competition.
The Small Business Act, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme and the Europe 2020 strategy have reaffirmed the European Commission's commitment to providing support for SMEs' growth so as to ensure their continued contribution to Europe's economic competitiveness.
In order to provide the necessary support mechanisms, the European Commission has developed an extensive network of in-depth programs and resources to help European SMEs thrive in today's economy. No matter the stage of development of your SME, assistance for the following key topics can be found below.
Support Reference Guide for SMEs
The Enterprise Europe Network
is the largest network of contact points providing information and advice to EU companies on EU matters, in particular small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Launched in 2008 by the European Commission, it is an integrated network offering a "one-stop shop" to meet all the information needs of SMEs and companies in Europe.
European Portal for SMEs provides a single entry point to information on all European Union policies, programmes, projects, tools and services aimed at SMEs. The aim is to provide easy access to information on all European Union policies and initiatives of relevance to SMEs.
EU finance for SMEs
Assists SMEs identify and apply for loans supported by the European Union. Provides guidance on identifying EU supported loans for SMEs through the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme 2007-2013 (CIP). CIP funds are used to guarantee loans to SMEs provided by a range of financial institutions involved in SME lending.
The Pan-European Gateway to Business & Innovation Financing. The portal aims to support innovative entrepreneurs in Europe as well as to assist Innovation Professionals to improve their capacity to assist entrepreneurs by fostering networking and the exchange of experience and good practice at European level.
Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP)
The Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme aims to encourage the competitiveness of European SMEs. The CIP consists of three operational programmes: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, Information Communication Technologies Policy Support Programme and Intelligent Energy Europe.
Enterprise and Industry Online Magazine
The Magazine of Enterprise policy aims to disseminate information on all EU policies, actions and initiatives promoting growth and development, with a view to strengthening the competitiveness of EU enterprises.
Developing a Network
Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)
The Enterprise Europe Network helps small business to make the most of the European marketplace. Working through local business organisations, they help SMEs to develop business in new markets, source or license new technologies, and access EU finance and EU funding. EEN has more than 580 member organisations across the EU and beyond, including chambers of commerce and industry, technology centres, universities and development agencies.
The consortium consists of a network of the national patent offices of the European Union, the European Patent Office and the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market. The main objective with this network is to provide general information on domestic, foreign and international intellectual property rights to SMEs and academia in Europe.
The IPR Helpdesk provides comprehensive information on intellectual property (IP) rights, focusing on IP questions in the context of projects co-financed under the EU Framework Programmes on research, technological development and demonstration activities (RTD).
provides direct free access to European Union law through access to the Official Journal of the European Union as well as the treaties, legislation, case-law and legislative proposals.
Respecting the Rules: Trade Policy Instrument
A 'how to' guide to ensure fair and undistorted trade between EU companies and non-EU companies. Targeted at SMEs, the site covers specific legal instruments, notably the 'Trade Defence Instruments' (TDI), and includes a helpdesk for SMEs and FAQs.
Taxation and Customs Union
This site gives enterprises a clear view of all the measures to be taken into account when importing or exporting goods. It includes an online customs tariff database which covers all measures relating to tariff, commercial and agricultural legislation of relevance when importing or exporting goods.