European Parliament event on SMEs and patents

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16 April 2018

EPO presents case studies highlighting patents as springboard for SME success

The European Patent Office has presented its report on SMEs and Patents at an event last week hosted by Paul Rübig MEP, First Vice-Chair of the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel (STOA). The breakfast debate was co-organised by SME Europe and the EPO.

In his opening speech Mr Rübig said, "Patents are important for SMEs as they guarantee a return on investment", and added that adequate patent strategies will reinforce SMEs' competitiveness.

Over 40 participants were present from EU institutions and industry, including Ivan Štefanec MEP, Vice-President of SME Europe, Ingo Friedrich, Honorary MEP and President of the European Economic Senate and Jiří Buriánek, Secretary-General of the European Committee of the Regions. During the event they addressed issues such how EU policy-makers can raise SMEs' awareness of IP and the expected benefits of the forthcoming Unitary Patent.

Mr Štefanec argued that "the EU has to remove the barrier to innovation", underlining that the current patent system is still fragmented and that the forthcoming Unitary Patent will be relevant in reducing procedural complexity and costs, especially for SMEs.

Principal Director for Unitary Patent, European and International Legal Affairs Margot Fröhlinger, set out in her presentation how the planned Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court will help overcome the fragmentation in the European patent system, also for the benefit of SMEs. According to her, the new system may be expected to be operational early 2019.

These points were illustrated by the EPO's Chief Economist Yann Ménière who presented the EPO's case studies as positive examples of how SMEs can make good use the European patent system. He pointed out that the Unitary Patent will provide SMEs with access to a wider geographic protection in Europe, enabling them to better exploit the full potential of the Single Market. Moreover, the new patent is expected to boost European trade and foreign direct investment in industries making an above average use of intellectual property rights.

The CEO of Spanish SME Fractus, Rubén Bonet, was present to speak about his company's experience and illustrate how European SME could make effective use of patents. He stated: "Investing in patents and changing our business model to technology licensing allowed us to survive bankruptcy and increase our market share". In 2014, Fractus were finalists of the European Inventor Award in the SME category. The company is featured in the SME case studies of the EPO.

Mr Slawomir Tokarski, Director of Innovation at DG GROW, also presented the European Commission's IPR package adopted last year and stressed the cost savings expected from the Unitary Patent.

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