World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated on April 26th, it acknowledges the importance that intellectual property (IP) rights play in driving technological change and economic development. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Intellectual property and small businesses: Taking big ideas to market”. New companies, products and innovative concepts emerge on the market regularly because of ongoing human ingenuity and imagination. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) created the event in 2000 to “raise awareness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact on daily life” and “to celebrate creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe”.
Why IP is important for small businesses
Smaller businesses must take proactive steps to secure their intellectual property, such as filing for a patent, registering a trademark, or establishing technical and organisational precautions to protect the company’s secrets. Additionally, it is important to remember that just because you have a patent, it does not mean that your invention is automatically protected: you still need to keep a watchful eye on any potential infringement from third parties. That is why patent databases such as PatBase, are used as a tool to search, review, share and analyse critical patent information and non-patent literature by innovative companies across all industry verticals, to keep ahead of competitors in an industry and protect their innovations. Companies can also use a system like CiteTracker (see below) to monitor global patent citation activity and send weekly alerts by email, delivering a concise report of new citations as they are added to the patent documents being watched. Monitoring forward citations on your own patent portfolio, for example, could help you to monitor picket fencing activity around your ideas, flagging potential infringement.
IP rights to the rescue
Knog, a bike light manufacturer based in Australia is an example of a small business whose patent prevented its competitors from riding on the wave of its investment and R&D efforts. Knog spent years designing a line of distinct bike lights that rapidly became very popular worldwide. When developing products, they always patented their designs which was crucial when a different manufacturer imitated their light design, creating exact replicas which they then attempted to showcase at the same bicycle event as Knog. In the below image we can see Knog’s patented design that was replicated. Knog filed a court suit, preventing the maker from exporting the stolen design, for them it was not just about preventing knock offs of their product from being sold but to protect the brand name they had established.
Applying for a patent will protect a company’s innovations. A business needs to protect these intangible assets from unfair claims and intellectual property can also boost the value of a small business, allowing it to prosper. A study produced jointly by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) showed that SMEs which have filed at least one intellectual property (IP) right are 21% more likely to experience a growth period afterwards and are 10% more likely to become a high-growth firm (HGF) than firms without IP rights applications. With an effective IP strategy companies will be able to not only keep competition at bay, but also build the business, increase, and protect their market share, and find new sources of revenue.