18 November 2019
The EPO last week presented two of its studies at an event in the European Parliament hosted by Jörgen Warbon MEP, Vice-President SME Europe of the European People's Party group. The Office's study on High-growth firms and intellectual property rights, as well as its recently published Patent commercialisation scoreboard: European SMEs, were presented to MEPs and other stakeholders at a breakfast debate co-organised by SME Europe and the EPO.
In his opening address Mr Warborn reinforced the pivotal role of intellectual property (IP): "IP is the measurement of our competitiveness". He also noted, however, that EU growth in patents is being outpaced by that of China and India. "IP offices located in Asia receive 66.8% of all patent applications filed worldwide, whereas only 11% of the global total is filed in the EU."
Over 40 participants from EU institutions and industry were present, including Ivan Štefanec MEP, President of SME Europe; Maria Grapini MEP and Alex Agius Saliba MEP as Members of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection; Pernille Weiss MEP, Member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy; Elena Bertolotto, Legal Adviser at BusinessEurope; and Luc Hendrickx, Director at SME United. During the event they addressed issues such as how EU policy-makers can raise SMEs' awareness of IP and the expected benefits of the Unitary Patent.
Pointing to the increasing importance of IP, Mr Štefanec stressed that in order to compete with Asia, key players such as SMEs, large enterprises and academia would need to reinforce their cooperation. He also noted the European patent system's fragmentation and underlined the role of the planned Unitary Patent in reducing procedural complexity and costs, particularly for SMEs.
EPO Chief Economist Yann Ménière presented the EPO's studies as positive examples of how SMEs can make good use of the European patent system. He emphasised the prominent role of IPR intensive industries for the EU economy, with one fifth of all European patent applications in Europe being filed by SMEs. In addition, he pointed out that these smaller businesses apply a holistic approach to patent uses and successfully commercialise up to two thirds of them. Mr Ménière also discussed some of the challenges faced by SMEs, including a lack of IP expertise and the need to find partners to support their commercialisation.
Rik Breur, Founder & Managing Director of Finsulate, Innovalue B.V. and winner of the 2019 European Inventor Award in the SME category, spoke on his company's experience. He illustrated how European SMEs could make effective use of their patents, stating that patents are crucial for commercialisation. However, he also noted that costs associated with patents were another of the challenges faced by SMEs.
Amaryllis Verhoeven, Head of Unit, Intellectual Property & Fight Against Counterfeiting at DG GROW, told the participants that, "IP is one of the most important assets of a company but often SMEs don't opt for a protection because of a lack of knowledge". She underlined that the EU already invests a lot of money in research but needs to do more regarding commercialisation. Ms Verhoeven also highlighted the need for a Unitary Patent and Unitary Supplementary Protection certificate.
In their presentations, Elena Bertolotto, Legal Adviser at BusinessEurope, focussed on the need to support SMEs in their enforcement efforts while Luc Hendrickx, Director at SME United, emphasised the need to improve SME access to finance and for smaller enterprises to create partnerships.