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Intellectual property: research shows SMEs’ IPR risk

Smaller businesses are struggling to protect their ideas, according to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

A quarter of business owners suffered a violation of their intellectual property (IP) in the past five years. Half of these said that a product had been copied by a rival, a third reported use of copyrighted work on a website, and a further third said they had experienced trademark infringements.

Such infringements can be incredibly damaging: Almost one in three firms derive from 75% to 100% of revenue from their IP.

Copyright, patent, trademark

Smaller businesses spend a significant amount of time and money protecting their IP, putting in place patents, copyright, trademarks, branding and product designs. This takes away valuable resources from business development, potentially putting growth and innovation at risk. Of firms that took part in the survey, 32% said they had spent money on their property rights within the last five years, with one in five of those investing more than £5,000. But even with security, IP is still regularly stolen.

Intellectual property office

The Intellectual Property Office has implemented tools and strategies to help SMEs combat intellectual property theft, but the FSB research shows that small firms continue to find it hard to use them.

“The knowledge economy, which runs on innovative ideas and brands, is becoming ever more critical to our economic success,” said John Allan, FSB national chairman. “Left unchecked, theft and infringement of ideas, patents and brand costs small businesses and diminishes their appetite to invest in their business, ultimately hampering the UK’s long-term economic growth.”

Last year a third of smaller firms that had IP stolen took no action against perpetrators and two fifths said they used direct contact with the infringer to address the issue. Reasons for not taking action included cost, lack of resources and lack of awareness of appropriate routes.


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