SMEs Must Grasp the Value of Intellectual Property
Financial cost and lack of awareness are the two main barriers SMEs face when facing the issue of Intellectual Property (IP), a new study for ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) reveals today.
Undertaken by Said Business School at Oxford University, the research offers recommendations for entrepreneurs and SMEs to improve their IP awareness, while also recommending that professionals dealing with SMEs – including accountants – also raise their own awareness of Intellectual Property.
Interviewing approximately 50 SMEs and microenterprises, the report found that SMEs were also reluctant to consider IP due to not understanding its true value to their business.
When it comes to seeking advice, some interviewees said they picked an IP adviser out of Yellow Pages, while others deliberately ignored IP issues saying “We just try to be quick into the market, just keeping ahead by being faster.”
The report says that solicitors have an important ‘bridging role’ in encouraging SMEs to embrace Intellectual Property, because they have links with accountants and patent attorneys. Venture Capitalists may also play a crucial role in enforcing higher standards of IP management as part of the endeavour to protect their investment with the small business.
Rosana Mirkovic, Senior Policy Adviser at ACCA’s SME Unit, says:
“Every business owns some form of intellectual property – an artistic design, shape, technology, process or brand. Big firms tend to know that. But smaller companies are often too preoccupied with the day to day running of their business to really take stock of what they have and the need to protect it. This report highlights an important opportunity for accountants to help raise awareness of this need, and enhance their service to their clients in the process. Often, accountants are the first advisers small firm owners consult, and this first point of contact can provide a very useful basis to heighten IP awareness early on.
“Intellectual property is a significant issue for an increasing numbers of companies, but many know very little about how to protect or manage it. Business advisers, from Business Links to Accountants to Solicitors all have a part to play here in helping SMEs consider what it means to them.”
IP Case Study: Tanya Ewing, British Female Inventor of the Year 2008
Tanya set up her business Ewgeco in 2006 when she was 38 years old. She says on her website www.ewgeco.com.
“The starting point for my business idea was a really large gas bill. It was at that moment that I wanted to better understand our energy consumption and understand how we could take control of the household bills"
Tanya realised very early on that IP was vital to her business success and she worked closely from the start with the Innovator’s Counselling Advisory Service for Scotland, (ICASS) a body funded by the Scottish government, which offers free advice on whether an idea has mileage.
ICASS undertook an initial patent search and then immediately put Tanya in contact with patent lawyers, industrial designers and electronic developers who began to turn the Ewgeco into something that could work.
Tanya says that IP is not just about a patent or copyright:
“It’s about everything, the look, colours, design and branding you use for your idea. My advice to all SMEs, start ups, micro enterprises and entrepreneurs is to protect what you have or someone else will exploit it. SMEs must understand the value of their own IP as it can add real value when it comes to selling a business.”
Tanya was recently a guest speaker at the South African Women’s Inventors and Innovators Symposium where she shared the stage with the Deputy President and the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
Tanya won the Jupiter ‘Big Idea’ Category in the Observer Ethical Awards in 2008.