IP-Academy

Intellectual property basis for SME's

Intellectual Property Basis for SME's

Author: Danielle Carvey

Intellectual property is vital to business growth and brand recognition, but it can be difficult to know where to begin, especially for small and medium sized enterprises (SME's). A 2019 study by the EUIPO and EPO demonstrated that SME's which filed for at least one IP right were 21% more likely to experience subsequent growth and up to 33% if bundles of IP rights were filed, i.e. a combination of patents, trademarks and designs. So how does an SME approach this?

One of the most important elements in separating a new business from its competitors is the branding. Creating a brand with a slogan or logo that draws people in and is trusted is a lot of the fight toward becoming a reputable SME which will be chosen over its competitors. It is also crucial for SME's to obtain trademark registration to protect them against unfair competition, preventing others from utilising a similar or identical mark for their own gain, misleading or confusing consumers by mimicking another brand’s trademark, or wrongfully benefiting from another company's good reputation.

With a large number of SME's constituting tech businesses, patents and utility models can be essential in protecting advancing technology which can catapult their success. Approximately 18% of all patent filings from Europe submitted to the EPO in 2020 were made by SME's or individuals, showing that although the majority are from business giants, smaller companies are joining the trend. However, due to globalization, patent protection in multiple jurisdictions is becoming more and more commercially necessary, which can amount to hefty filing and enforcement fees that smaller businesses may not be able to pay. On the flip side, a niche innovation could be worth spending a substantial amount in the beginning, in order to reap the benefits of ownership, lucrative licensing and the propensity to garner a substantive patent portfolio in the future. Therefore, evaluating which innovations to prioritise for protection may be a middle ground for SME's which won't incur as heavy a cost as patenting all of the business’s inventions, and might pay off in the long run.

A unique design can set a brand apart from its competitors in a bold way if done correctly. If, for example, a chair is designed in a more ergonomic way than its competitors, consumers are undoubtedly more likely to opt for the better design. To protect a design like this from being imitated by other companies, an industrial design right can prove effective for SME's, as they can present as a consumer-facing piece of IP which can substantially contribute to the reputation of the business and their products.

If you are interested in knowing more about IP for SME's, feel free to contact us.

Related articles

The Eurasian Patent Organization and Office (EAPO) is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1995 with the aim of promoting the development and protection of intellectual property across the region, in accordance with the Eurasian Patent Convention (EPC). The EPC was first signed on September 9, 1994 and entered into force on August 12 of the following year, formally establishing the EAPO.

Member states to the EAPO include countries from both the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and non-CIS countries, fostering international collaboration in the field of IP. These Member States in 2024 include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. The EAPO headquarters are located in Russia with the official language of the Office being Russian.

The EAPO's main aim is to facilitate intellectual property protection for inventions and industrial designs via one Eurasian application that is valid throughout all 8 Member States. As such, the Office plays an important role in streamlining the IP application process throughout Eurasia, providing a unified platform for inventors and businesses to seek protection for their ideas in multiple member states simultaneously. The EAPO system therefore simplifies procedures for patent and design protection, reduces costs, and enhances efficiency, contributing to the growth of innovation and technology within the region.

The Office has provided protection for Eurasian patents since its origin, and began to accept applications for regional industrial design protection in June 2021 following the adoption of the Protocol on the Protection of Industrial Designs to the Eurasian Patent Convention in 2019.

In order to obtain a Eurasian patent valid in all EAPO Member States, an applicant should file just one application to the EAPO which can be submitted in any language so long as it is followed by a Russian translation within a 2 month period, or within 4 months if the corresponding fee is paid. A Eurasian patent may also be obtained on the basis of a PCT application by entering the Eurasian regional phase within 31 months from the earliest priority date. Eurasian patent applications are subject to substantive examination with an applicant required to submit a request for the same within 6 months from the date of publication of the search report for conventional applications. For PCT based applications the substantive examination should be requested upon regional phase entry.

Once a Eurasian patent is granted, the patent holder is able to decide which Member States they wish for the patent to be maintained, as well as restore lapsed Eurasian patents due to unpaid maintenance fees. Applicants may also extend the term of validity of Eurasian patents in certain invention areas. During the period of time between the publication of the Eurasian patent and the payment of the first annual maintenance fee, the patent holder has the exclusive right to their invention in all Eurasian countries.

All fees in relation to Eurasian patents or industrial designs are paid to the EAPO directly, as opposed to each respective EAPO Member State individually. The filing fee for Eurasian patents may be reduced by 25% if the application contains an already produced international search report or PCT search report by another ISA, and by 40% if such reports were produced by the Rospatent.

As of 2022, the EAPO also acts as an international search authority (ISA) and an international preliminary examination authority (IPEA) in accordance with the PCT.

The EAPO has participated in multiple international collaborations, including the signing of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU's) with the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the European Patent Office (EPO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Moreover, the EAPO also engages in Patent Prosecution Highway programmes with several IPO's worldwide inclusive of the Japanese Patent Office (JPO), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH) and the EPO, facilitating an expedited patent processing time through the sharing of examination findings with the respective IPO's of the PPH agreements.

The EAPO's commitment to intellectual property rights underscores its significance in fostering a conducive environment for research, development, and economic growth in the region. If you would like to find out more information on how to file for IP protection in Eurasia or via the EAPO, please contact us via our social media platforms or here!

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) is a regional IP office and European Union Agency founded in 1994, located and headquartered in Alicante, Spain. As such, the EUIPO facilitates the protection of European Union trademarks (EUTM), formerly a "community trade mark", as well as Registered Community Designs (RCD). An alternative name for the EUIPO is in the French language, namely “Office de l'Union européenne pour la propriété intellectuelle”.

The office was founded and operates on the basis of Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2017 on the European Union trade mark. As an international hub for intellectual property matters, the office operates in five working languages, namely English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Applications received by the EUIPO can be processed in the twenty-three official languages of the EU.

Registered Community Designs, as well as EU trademarks registered through the EUIPO, benefit from unitary protection effect across all EU Member States. Registered trademarks and designs with the EUIPO are published and the information made publicly available in the corresponding IP registers managed by the office. The Register of European Union trademarks, for example, contains particulars of all EU trademark applications and registrations, whilst the Community Design Register contains information pertaining to registered EU designs. Both of these registers are continually updated to track any amendments to EUTM's or RCD's such as ownership information and licencing.

The EUIPO also publishes the EU Trade Marks Bulletin and Community Designs Bulletin containing said registrations, as well as other relevant information available to the public.

In addition to facilitating the registration of RCD's and EUTM's, the EUIPO also maintains the Orphan Works Database, providing access to information relating to orphan works contained in the collections of publicly accessible forms such as educational establishments and archives in Member States.

Furthermore, the office oversees the Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, aiming to assist in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy by raising public awareness through the encouragement of best practices and cooperation. The EUIPO has overseen both Orphan Works and the Observatory of Infringements since 2012.

The EUIPO is a vital IP office for the facilitation of intellectual property throughout the European Union, with the office examining over 150,000 EUTM applications and 90,000 RCD applications every year. Moreover, the office allows for a multitude of international cooperations and initiatives spanning across the globe, aligning with the European Commission external actions policy priorities. As such, the EUIPO aims to create awareness on the benefits of IP protection and registration, encouraging innovation as a source of economic development across the EU.

Furthermore, the office supports the development of the administration of IP and enforcement services by modernizing legislation and promoting participation in international IP Treaties. Through Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), the EUIPO forges collaborations with other IP offices directly, identifying actions that can benefit the IP field in EU Member States and the IP sphere on a global level.

The EUIPO also engages in the TM5, consisting of five major IP offices for trademarks, and the ID5, comprising five major IP offices for industrial designs. These five offices include the CNIPA, EUIPO, JPO, KIPO and USPTO in close collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The EUIPO serves as a focal point for not only the European IP sphere, but for IP protection on a multi-regional level too.

The European Patent Office (EPO) is a regional intellectual property office which contributes to a unified patent system across member states, streamlining the process for the protection of patents across the region. It is headquartered in Munich, Germany, with several other branch offices present in cities across Europe.

The EPO is the executive arm of the European Patent Organisation, an intergovernmental structure established on October 7, 1977, on the basis of the European Patent Convention (EPC) signed in 1973. The organization has grown to include all 27 member states of the European Union, alongside other non-EU states, bringing the total number of EPO member states to 39 inclusive of 44 respective countries.

The EPO operates alongside the EPC, a treaty which provides a legal framework for the granting of European patents by way of a single, harmonized procedure before the EPO. This mechanism allows the EPO to function as a centralized patent office for European member states, allowing applicants to file for protection of their inventions via a more simplified route when compared with filing for patent protection separately in each respective country. As such, the EPO plays a pivotal role in the intellectual property field of the region.

The EPO operates in three official languages, namely English, French and German, and patent applications may be filed in any of the three official languages.

One of the core functions of the EPO is to provide for the examination and granting of patents for inventions, with examiners from the Office assessing applications as per the necessary criteria such as a patent possessing novelty, industrial applicability and an inventive step.

Further establishing its role in the international IP landscape, the EPO is also actively involved in multiple international patent co-operations, with the office notably constituting one of the members of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT streamlines the process for the filing of international patent applications and facilitates the exchange of information and prior art. Moreover, the EPO has forged further collaborations with approximately 75 IP offices and regional IP organizations across the globe.

The Office has also formed cooperative validation agreements with five non-member states, namely Cambodia, Georgia, Moldova, Morocco and Tunisia. These agreements allow applicants to file for patent protection via the harmonized procedure before the EPO as they would when seeking patent protection in member states (either directly or via the Euro-PCT route), however applicants may request patent validation in the 5 aforementioned states despite them being non EPC members. The validation of a European patent in such states will have the same effect as a national patent would in each state respectively, and is available upon paying the corresponding fee.

Applications for patents in validation states are subject to the national laws of each respective state, however the state itself will not conduct examination, with the examination results conducted by the EPO being utilized instead.

The EPO plays an important role in the IP sphere on both an European regional level, and on an international level. Beyond its patent granting function, the EPO supports innovation by providing access to extensive patent databases and resources. As well as applicants and inventors, others such as researchers and policymakers can utilize data produced by the EPO to analyze and monitor patterns and trends in the field of technology to make informed decisions with respect to their patent portfolio, prospective applications, and future innovation.

Further, the work produced by the EPO and the quality of examination of patents has a direct impact on economic development and innovation in Europe. The EPO therefore aids in facilitating the encouragement of investment in research and development, fostering economic growth and technological advancement in the European region.

If you are interested in filing for patent protection by way of the EPO or Euro-PCT, or simply would like to learn more, contact us via our website or social media platforms.

 

A patent application should detail in-depth information pertaining to the invention claimed and corresponding subject-matter. Each country/region has its specificities as to the application form (request to grant a patent). Navigating the specifics of what information should be detailed in a patent application can be difficult, but this handy guide will delve into the key components.

All patent applications should contain general details, including the applicant name(s), address, and information pertaining to the agent acting on behalf of the applicant(s), as well as more technical information regarding the invention. This technical information comprises the patent specification of an application. The specification for a patent application should include:

Patent Title

The patent title detailed in the application will be the name assigned to your protected invention, and should be both short and factual. Due to the fact that the title will enter the public domain upon submission of your application, it is important to avoid disclosing confidential data or detailing novel methods relating to your invention in the title. Disclosing such information could risk your ideas being copied by other individuals or entities, who may use your unprotected, novel idea to produce analogous concepts or similar ideas of their own.

Field of the invention

The type of invention, or area of technology, to which to patent subject matter relates, otherwise known as the ‘field of invention’, should be depicted briefly in the patent specification. Such description should include a definition of both the class and subclass of the invention, for example "the invention pertains to technology for heating, specifically, for heating and cooling systems."

Background to the invention

The background to your invention is an important element in a patent application. It should detail any prior art that the applicant is aware of, although there is no obligation on the applicant for this information to be entirely comprehensive or accurate. The purpose of the background to the invention in an application is to provide a general overview of what the novel invention brings to the market that other, similar or prior art may not. It may also assist with the assessment of claim validity of the patent.

Statements of the invention

A patent specification should also detail the statements of the invention, which provide formal definitions as to what the invention is, and the intended scope of protection. Such statements should generally comprise broad definitions of the subject matter to which the patent application relates, and will be similar in nature to the claims section of the application.

Drawings

A patent application can typically include as many drawings as needed to accurately describe the invention. Any drawings contained within an application do not need to be highly technical, however they must be clear and adequately depict the patent.

A list of all drawings should also be included alongside corresponding descriptions of what each drawing depicts and shows. The drawings themselves should have precise labeling, with the numbers on the drawings establishing a connection between the illustration and the description.

Abstract

The abstract should comprise an understandable and clear description or overview of the main features of the invention(s) contained within a patent application and specification, which offers a useful overview of the patent's essence. The abstract is primarily used as an aid in patent searches, allowing others to find your patent application when searching for related inventions. The abstract must align with the rest of the patent specification and maintain accuracy, excluding any information which is not contained within the rest of the application. For this reason, it is typically composed after the completion of the patent application to ensure that the abstract accurately encapsulates the patent's content.

Description

The description should encompass an explanation of the innovation and its operational principles, depicting how the invention may be put into use, otherwise known as "specific embodiments” of an invention. It must encompass all the essential information for someone with expertise in the relevant field to replicate the invention. For instance, if the patent pertains to heating and cooling technology, fundamental details about assembling and running such technology, which a proficient heating engineer would reasonably be aware of, would not be required for them to replicate.

It is important to incorporate every aspect that makes the invention unique and explains its operational basis, as omission of the same may lead to the rejection of the application, or issues upon grant later down the line.

Patent claims

The patent claims are the most crucial sections within a patent application as the patentability of an invention will largely be determined by assessment of the claims. The claims should detail the scope of the application, defining exactly what will be protected by the patent if granted. The invention defined within the claims will typically be examined against, and compared with, existing inventions in order to assess patentability, therefore meticulous drafting of the patent claims is crucial. The claims should also outline the intended exclusive rights of the patent holder once granted, and the extent to which third parties will be able to utilize the invention. It is important to ensure that the claims encompass all possible versions of the invention that could possibly be created, as failure to do so may result in third parties creating similar versions of your invention if the claims do not limit them from doing so.

Each patent claim should consist of one sentence. Patent claims are separated into two categories, namely independent claims and dependent claims. Independent claims set forth the protection which is sought for the invention, outlining the necessary features for achieving the intended effect of the invention. The dependent claims, on the other hand, assist in limiting the scope of independent claims, providing additional details and context with reference to previous claims. The first claim detailed should typically be the most fundamental for the essence of the patent, and each subsequent one adding additional features. Each claim should be complete in and of itself.

The drafting of a patent application and specification is a complex and vital part of obtaining IP protection for an invention. It is therefore recommended that applicants seek legal advice or instruct a patent attorney to assist with the patent application process, particularly with the intricate drafting of claims. If you would like further details on applying for patent protection, or to file an application through the IP-Coster platform, contact us via social media, email, or our website contact page!