627. The United Kingdom is pleased to co-sponsor this paper and would like to thank Japan for introducing it. We also welcome the discussion on this agenda item.
628. With 99.9% of British companies being micro, small or medium sized businesses, the United Kingdom has always been a strong supporter of MSMEs as drivers of innovation.
629. The United Kingdom is not alone in this; across the globe, MSMES represent 95% of businesses and, as is clear from this paper, their significance to the economy is increasingly recognized. In times of uncertainty, it is even more important that we look at ways to bolster the capacity of MSMEs to support economic recovery.
630. The UK considers that an intellectual property system that enables these highly innovative enterprises to protect their creativity and innovation is crucial to maintaining their competitive edge and to supporting and nurturing their continued growth.
631. As the founder and Chairman of the well-known UK product Tangle Teezer said, "innovation is at the heart of Tangle Teezer and our products" He has patented his hairbrush in over 30 countries; each brush design is protected by design rights and the name Tangle Teezer is also protected as a trademark. "Being first to market has been of huge importance, but so has having worldwide IP protection… Having IP rights in so many countries makes trying to combat counterfeiters and patent infringements much easier."
632. However, while MSMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy and trade in intellectual property is an increasingly important part of UK business activity, it is also often true that many MSMEs have only limited knowledge of IP and the impact it may have on their business, and in turn on their competitiveness.
633. Therefore, the UK Government is committed to working to increase MSMEs' ability to understand the impact of IP on their entrepreneurial activities through awareness raising and education initiatives. Our ambition is that IP will be taken into account during the business planning process and that businesses understand and take informed decisions about using IP as an asset in the UK, and abroad – where our IP attachés support British businesses operating overseas and have a major impact on the improvement of the global IP system.
634. In practice that means businesses being able to access relevant IP information and IP registration services at the time that it is most pertinent in their development, which can make all the difference:
635. Such as in the case of These Please who specialise in colourful doorknobs, handles and coat hooks. Ashley Flett, Managing Director of the company says:
… we continued to see copies of our products being sold without our permission…
we had a look on the IPO website, read up on what we needed to do, and applied for a registered design… we realised we could cover several products under the same design. This was very attractive to us as it allowed us to expand our range and hold the design going forward.
The design registration has been fantastic… It's been a low investment with a high value. We couldn't run the business effectively without it.
636. Therefore, our support includes a range of digital tools and guidance designed to provide businesses and their advisors with the basic information they need to identify their assets, understand how they might protect them and the options available to derive value from them. This includes online tools to:
a. help advisors identify assets which may be protected by IP rights;
b. help businesses identify their own IP while raising awareness and understanding of the broader IP system and its benefits;
c. support businesses in facilitating IP terms within collaborative agreements - to equip UK businesses with the skills they need to successfully collaborate whilst taking control of how IP is managed and commercialised; and
d. support IP-rich businesses in seeking equity growth funding.
637. Another example of the work the UK Government undertakes in this area includes providing funding towards audits of small businesses' intellectual property, carried out by an IP professional, to provide clear recommendations as to how a business could leverage value out of its IP and how to develop an IP management plan to integrate IP assets into wider business strategy.
638. The service aims to provide MSMEs with guidance and advice in respect of IP management, commercialisation and marketing to ensure that they can obtain their IP rights, identify opportunities to use them in their wider business strategy and maximise their value.
639. Great ideas, properly protected, help MSMEs to compete and to grow. The benefits to be gained from using the intellectual property system to increase competitiveness apply to small, young companies as well as to larger, more established ones.
640. The United Kingdom is committed to ensuring that the intellectual property system can be fully utilised to support these aims. We look forward to hearing other member's experiences of using intellectual property to support MSMEs in a similar vein and to learn from these experiences going forward.