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World IP Day 2021: How SMEs can understand and leverage IP

It is no secret that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are one of the most important pillars of global prosperity. According to Darren Tang, the Director of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), “SMEs are the unsung heroes and engines of the economy, and yet for many of them, there is still a lack of knowledge on how IP can translate ideas into products and services, and how IP can be a powerful tool for them not just to survive, but also to compete and grow.” To celebrate SMEs, and the vast economic contributions they make to society, the 2021 theme for World Intellectual Property Day is “IP & SMEs – Taking Your Ideas to Market.”

SMEs that successfully leverage intellectual property (IP) have a tremendous advantage, but IP is often complex and hard to understand — especially for SMEs. SMEs, by nature, are often successful because they focus on one core business at which they excel, and IP can seem overly complicated and tangential from that core business. Furthermore, SMEs typically have limited resources that must be used judiciously, so engaging the invaluable but expensive expertise provided by law firms, consultancies, and other specialized IP advisors is not always an option.

Fortunately, there are many excellent and practical resources SMEs can use to learn about IP including (but not limited to) the three outlined below.

World Intellectual Property Office and national and intergovernmental patent offices

In preparation for World IP Day, WIPO has released extensive learning resources for SMEs eager to know more about IP, including a series of case studies highlighting how SMEs have successfully used IP to help their business, and an interactive map of institutions providing advice and support for SMEs around the world.

National and intergovernmental patent offices (such as the European Patent Office, or EPO) also offer resources for SMEs. SMEs should start with their home patent office, as there may be IP considerations that are unique to their country or region, but learning material such as that provided by the EPO has useful information for any SME.

University and legal IP clinics

Universities and law schools around the world frequently offer pro bono legal services to SMEs in exchange for providing real-world IP experience to students, under the supervision of experienced faculty and IP professionals. Depending on the country where an SME is based, there may be a formal program set up by that country’s patent office to certify participating clinics, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Law School Clinic Certification Program.

PatSnap Innovation Academy

Here at PatSnap, we believe in the democratization of IP and innovation, so we created a free, on-demand academy featuring courses on IP, R&D, and innovation that are ideal for SMEs. Through PatSnap’s Innovation Academy, SMEs can access courses on turning an idea in to a startup or how entrepreneurs can use IP to protect their businesses from larger competitors. The courses are designed for experience levels in IP ranging from beginner to intermediate and advanced, allowing SMEs to delve in to more sophisticated IP topics as their knowledge about IP increases.

In summary

In the spirit of World IP Day 2021, we at PatSnap join countless IP professionals and organizations in championing WIPO in its mission to empower SMEs. IP is an important consideration for any SME, from a technology startup that must use patents to support a round of investment, to an independent video game developer that depends on copyright law to protect its software. In the words of Director Tang, “Whatever help we can render to our SMEs, will be help that we render to the bedrock of your economy, and the backbone of the global economy. Ultimately, it will help our world to build back better.”