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IP and SMEs

IP and SMEs

Intellectual property (IP) can improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and provide a potential source of revenue. However, SMEs often lack the time, resources, or knowledge to address IP issues. The European Commission aims to help SMEs use IP more effectively by providing tools such as IP Helpdesks and by regularly evaluating the support available to small businesses.

IP SME helpdesks

The EU funds four IP helpdesks staffed by experts who can provide free advice and training sessions on IP issues:

  • The European IP Helpdesk offers tailored advice to researchers and European SMEs participating in EU-funded research projects and SMEs involved in international technology transfer processes.
  • Three specialised helpdesks support European SMEs in China, South-East Asia and Latin America. These multilingual helpdesks offer free services including confidential first-line advice on registering formal IPRs (such as patents, trademarks or design rights), managing intellectual property as business assets, dealing with intellectual property rights infringements, and the provision of information and training on related topics.

The helpdesks are funded by COSME, Europe’s programme for small and medium-sized enterprises, ICI, Europe's Instrument for Cooperation with Industrialised Countries and Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

Evaluating IP support for SMEs

The Commission analyses policy on IP support and evaluates the effectiveness of support tools. The results of this evaluation can aid the work of public authorities planning to develop IP support services.

Expert Group reports

Two expert groups have made recommendations on IP support for SMEs:

The reports stress the need to:

  • provide intellectual asset management skills rather than increase IP rights registration;
  • ensure links between IP specialist support and general business support (e.g. National Intellectual Property Offices and more general innovation support);
  • ensure that support is coordinated at national and EU level;
  • take a client-service attitude towards SMEs.

Evaluation of IPR support for SMEs

  • The European IPR Helpdesk services were evaluated in 2013 for their rationale, utility, efficiency and value added. The evaluation (2 MB) highlights the importance of a marketing strategy and forming stronger links with entities closer to SMEs for IP support services. The evaluation can contribute to future improvements to the services provided by the Helpdesk.
  • The IPorta project (2011-2014) aimed to help SMEs in Europe to use IPR in a more constructive way by improving SME support services provided by national IP offices (NIPOs). A report evaluating the project was produced in January 2015. An executive summary is also available.

Other resources