By Allen Dixon, CREATe IP Counsel
72% of hot tech start-ups in Europe believe that intellectual property (IP) has played a “major role” in their growth, but nearly that many say that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) need to know more about IP: 71% report that more training on intellectual property (IP) issues is needed among entrepreneurs.
Science/Business conducted this survey among the university start-up finalists for its Academic Enterprise Awards (ACES), representing some of Europe’s leading lights in translating and commercializing publicly funded research. 35 ACES candidates from 14 EU countries plus Norway and Israel participated in the survey.
In the survey results, announced in the recent European Parliament event “Small Companies, Big Ideas: How intellectual property helps SMEs grow”, these fledgling companies reported that IP helps them succeed in numerous ways:
- These companies create and own a variety of different types of IP: copyrights (26.7%), trademarks (36.7%), trade secrets (43.3%) and patents (93.3%).
- IP helps them attract investment (up to 81%), protect against competitors (up to 77%), distinguish their business from others (up to 60%), increase credibility (up to 50%), attract customers (up to 35%), and enable further innovation (up to 30%).
And these successful companies seem to benefit from several types of internal management systems for dealing with IP:
- A stated business strategy for IP (68%).
- A partner or consultant to specialize in handling IP (56%).
- At least one person assigned to identify and protect IP created by the company (52%).
- An inventory of IP assets (40%).
- A policy regarding licensing of the company’s IP to others (16%).
- A financial evaluation of IP assets (4.0%).
The types of problems that these entrepreneurs have encountered with IP include not just the inherent cost and assistance required in securing some of these rights (notably patents), but issues that could benefit from better internal understanding and management of IP. Some of these SMEs reported problems in understanding the IP system (15%), losing rights at an early stage due to being uninformed (5%), or losing IP due to leaks of confidential information (5%).
All in all, a large majority of these SMEs reported that better training on IP issues is needed—not simply among undergraduates or graduate students (71%), but also when starting and running a company (up to 63%).