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Reviewed 31 March 2011

Small businesses need to do more to protect their ideas

Small businesses need to do more to protect and exploit their innovations, according to research published today by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The 'Intellectual Property Awareness Survey of Business' has shown that only 15 percent of small companies have ever sought advice on safeguarding their ideas. Only 11 percent of firms overall assign responsibility for managing intellectual property (IP) rights. This is compared to 43 per cent of larger companies, meaning that smaller enterprises risk missing out on valuable income from their creativity.

Announcing the results during a visit to Plymouth University to talk to final year robotics students about the value of their ideas, Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Wilcox said:

"Innovation is the backbone of our economy, and it’s encouraging that many businesses know the importance of protecting and exploiting their ideas. However it’s clear that many smaller companies aren't aware of how to make the most of their intellectual property.

"As part of the Government’s commitment to helping small businesses, the Intellectual Property Office offers a range of information and services to help companies identify and benefit from their inventions and designs."

Services offered by the Intellectual Property Office include:

  • A free online IP Healthcheck tool to help businesses understand different areas of IP
  • Workshops delivered throughout the UK to teach business advisors about IP
  • An IP Master Class course in partnership with Coventry University and the British Library
  • Free regional IP awareness seminars for businesses
  • Free guidance documents on a range of IP topics, from outlining the basics to country-specific IP guides for UK exporters to Brazil, China, Korea, India and Vietnam to help British companies in the major markets around the world

This is the second survey commissioned by the IPO. It involved 20,000 businesses of all sizes and from all industry sectors across the UK, and aimed to find out their level of awareness about intellectual property including trade marks, patents, copyright and designs.

Editors notes

  • The Intellectual Property Office is within the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, and is responsible for the national framework of Intellectual Property rights, comprising patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.
  • Its role is to help manage an IP system that encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of consumers and users, promotes strong and competitive markets and is the foundation of the knowledge based economy.
  • It operates in a national and an international environment and its work is governed by national and international law, including various international treaties relating to IP to which the United Kingdom is a party.
  • The 'Intellectual Property Awareness Survey PDF document(638Kb) of Business' is available on the IPO website.
  • More information about the services provided to businesses by the IPO is available on the IPO website.
  • For further information, please contact Intellectual Property Office Press Officer Emma Griffiths on 020 7215 5982 or e-mail communications.

Date of release: 31 March 2011