SMEs the engine room for growth

Stuart Kennedy

Small businesses and startups need to lift their awareness of intellectual property issues and lock down IP early to protect their grey matter assets, according to the IP Australia.

Small to medium business’ are the engine driving the wheels of Australian innovation with IP Australia figures showing 70 per cent of local intellectual property protection filings come from SMEs.

Speaking at the Intellectual Property – Your Business Here and Abroad forum in Sydney this week, IP Australia Director General Patricia Kelly said the share of rights filings made by SMEs had been rising over last 10 years.

But the startup sector was behind the IP protection game.

“IP Australia’s stakeholder research suggests many small businesses and startups are not acting early or giving high priority to protecting their inventions or their brands,” said Ms Kelly.

“For many businesses, IP will be one of your most valuable business assets, providing an essential platform for business growth, so you need to manage and protect it. Not moving early to protect your IP can put your rights at risk. IP should be an integral part of your overall business strategy,” she said.

Ms Kelly held up Apple as the poster child of maximising IP value with about 72 per cent of an iPhone’s purchase price going to provide returns to companies for tech related IP, 58 per cent of it going straight to Apple. Only two per cent of the price goes on labour for manufacturing the device.

To help lift IP issue awareness, IP Australia has been running workshops nationally inside co-working spaces and incubation hubs.

“These intensive workshops are designed to help start-ups and SMEs understand the basics of IP and more specifically how trademarks and patents can give their businesses a competitive edge,” said Ms Kelly.

IP Australia had created a number of digital service initiatives to bolster its outreach to smaller businesses such as a website makeover and the introduction of Alex, a virtual assistant able to help out with IP related queries.

“Alex is a digital assistant available to answer your trade mark questions 24/7. While we have started with the trademarks system, as this is where we have the highest number of unrepresented clients, in future Alex will be able to answer questions on all four of the IP rights we administer including patents and designs.”

IP Australia is also developing a new trade mark search tool that will be able to sniff out the chances of a successful trade mark filing.

“Ultimately the aim is to provide the non-expert user with a more guided experience, and have the system perform analysis so it can indicate the probable chance of a successful TM filing to the user as part of the search results. Internal capability is due for release this year and the public version is expected to be released in 2017,” said Ms Kelly.

The agency has commissioned a study that will identify methods that could help SMEs better leverage their IP assets when chasing finance and is looking at the potential of intellectual property related insurance products.

“We are investigating the possibility of insurance solutions that may assist Australian SME’s negotiate the challenge of enforcing and defending their IP rights.”

Meanwhile, IP Australia has developed a Patent Analytics Hub that assists government and publicly funded research bodies find insights for their commercialisation strategies.

“The services provided include mapping out patent networks between organisations and highlighting patenting activity in specific technology areas. This information can help identify market opportunities as well as potential collaboration or partnership opportunities,” said Ms Kelly.

It is also developing a tool called IPNOVA that translates IP data into an easy-to-understand visual format that will be released in October.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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