IP protection 'essential for small firms'

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The FSB believes better safeguards for intellectual property are a must

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has published new research highlighting the considerable lengths smaller businesses are having to go to in order to protect their intellectual property (IP).

A new survey of FSB members has shown as many as one quarter (25 per cent) of the nation's small businesses have suffered some form of IP violation or transgression in the last five years.

This highlights the considerable pressures being placed upon businesses across the country when it comes to safeguarding their future, as a lack of security surrounding IP could ultimately lead to many businesses being forced to wind up.

National chairman of the FSB John Allan stated: "The knowledge economy, which runs on innovative ideas and brands, is becoming ever more critical to our economic success.

"Left unchecked, theft and infringement of ideas, patents and brands cost small businesses and diminish their appetite to invest in their business, ultimately hampering the UK's long-term economic growth."

At present, the Intellectual Property Office has in place a number of measures and tools to help protect IP rights for businesses across the UK, but these findings show that in many instances these safeguards are not sufficient.

This is especially true for the almost one-third (30 per cent) of UK small businesses that rely upon the protected ownership of some form of IP for between 75 and 100 per cent of their annual revenues. Infringements on IP in these instances can have far-reaching and damaging impact on business viability.

Overall, the FSB's research showed that almost one-third (32 per cent) of companies that hold IP rights have spent money on protecting these rights within the last five years, with one-fifth of this group having spent in excess of £5,000.

Despite this, a significant proportion of businesses have suffered financial damage as a result of stolen IP, with the most common abuses being unauthorised use of a trademark (31 per cent), use of copyrighted work in a product or service (33 per cent) and the copying of a product (50 per cent).

"IP is a fundamental building block if the UK is to become the best country in the world for innovation and creative services. Small businesses must be better supported in harnessing IP in the UK and overseas," Mr Allan concluded.

He added that a tightening of IP protection is therefore essential, as is the delivery of a simplified and faster system of redress for those companies that are the victim of IP infringement in the future, especially for smaller firms that have fewer resources with which to defend themselves.