Where close to half of larger businesses regularly take steps to protect their IP just 11 per cent of small firms follow suit, according research by the Intellectual Property Office.
It is hardly surprising. The UK’s current system fails to differentiate between small or large firms seeking copyright protection – each paying virtually the same regardless of size or standing.
The Forum of Private Business believes this is not fair. We are lobbying for change to make it easier and less costly for smaller firms to protect their ideas and innovations.
The costs involved with patent applications are almost certainly the main sticking point for UK SMEs. In the US, where patenting prices are as much as five times less, the practice of taking them out is much more commonplace.
The Forum believes that ensuring UK funding for patenting and trade marking would allow more small businesses to better protect their innovations. Education is also important – a better understanding of IP rights and practices would clearly benefit many businesses.
Increased take up of IP protection would not only safeguard British business by protecting revenue, it would provide them with a vital competitive edge both at home and abroad. Many instances of IP infringement occur overseas.
Non-UK importers exploit IP belonging to British firms often in the knowledge that small businesses simply can’t afford to take legal action, allowing them to act with virtual impunity from prosecution.
The Government has, however, already indicated a willingness to assist UK business overseas by instructing its embassies to help where possible and imposing a damages cap of £500,000 – allowing more cases to be heard in the Patent County Court rather than the potentially more expensive High Court. These are steps a step in the right direction.
The Forum has already responded to a consultation on the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property, and in November the not-for-profit organisation will provide evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) select committee as it continues to lobby for change.
Minimising the cost to small business associated with protecting IP is welcome, but more definite measures are going to be required to truly protect entrepreneurs’ innovative ideas.