EPO, Industry|September 29, 2017 8:27 am

New publication highlights importance of patents for Europe’s SMEs

Munich, 21 September 2017 - The EPO has published a set of 12 case studies which show how Europe’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are successfully using patents for their business. The studies form a part of the EPO’s efforts to support smaller companies in better protecting their inventions.

The publication aims to raise awareness of the importance of patents and other intellectual property rights for SMEs, and to help companies use the experiences and good practices described in the case studies for their own development and growth. It also serves to inform them about the role the planned Unitary Patent is expected to play for smaller businesses.

“Accounting for nearly 30 per cent of all patent applications at the EPO, SMEs are the backbone of the European economy,” says EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “In order to be competitive SMEs need to innovate – and to protect their inventions. These case studies demonstrate that patents can be a springboard for success for smaller companies and make all the difference to their business, especially in gaining access to funding. They provide concrete examples of how intellectual property can be leveraged to create value, jobs and growth.”

The studies, based on extensive interviews with senior managers, showcase SMEs from 11 different countries across Europe. The companies work in a wide range of industries, from medical technology and biotech to ICT, energy and the environment, and employ different business models.

Providing detailed information and recommendations, the studies show how companies can proactively adapt their IP strategy to real business needs. They also illustrate the variety of approaches to and advantages of using IP: patents can help businesses attract investment, enable them to confidently share sensitive know-how and co-operate with partners, and protect their inventions against illicit copying.

Some of the recommendations coming out of the studies include:

  • enlisting support from IP experts
  • taking a holistic approach to IP management by involving multiple company departments in IP strategy
  • collaborating with universities and research organisations in early-stage research and
  • making use of free patent information databases to conduct in-depth prior art searches early in the creative process before research begins.

The Unitary Patent – a further boost to SMEs

The case studies also highlight the benefits that SMEs can expect from the planned Unitary Patent. This reform will offer businesses a simpler alternative to the existing system, and introduce a more cost-effective route to broad and uniform patent protection and dispute resolution throughout the participating EU member states, treating them as a unified territory. It will thus increase legal certainty and competiveness across the EU. This is particularly important for smaller entities, which often have limited resources. Many of the SMEs featured in the case studies point out that the cost-effectiveness of the Unitary Patent and the jurisdiction of the Unified Patent Court will help them expand into a larger European market.

At the service of SMEs

The European patent system serves innovating businesses of all sizes. Patents granted by the EPO are recognised for their high quality and legal robustness, providing the certainty that companies need when seeking protection for their inventions. Through its free online patent databases such as Espacenet, the EPO also provides one of the largest collections of technical information available anywhere – a key resource for business intelligence about emerging trends, potential partners and competitors, freedom to operate and investment opportunities.

The EPO also works with numerous partners to help SMEs make the best use of the IP system. Under its co-operation programme with the national patent offices of its 38 member states, the Office works to raise awareness of the importance of patents at national and local level. The EPO’s training arm, the European Patent Academy, organises and contributes to workshops and seminars throughout Europe to provide know-how to individuals, and in particular to organisations which support companies, such as innovation centres, chambers of commerce and patent information centres. The Academy also offers a wide range of IP training materials online.

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