FPB: Let’s protect SME patent rights

The Forum of Private Business is calling for small businesses' patent rights to be better protected amid concerns that many cannot afford to sue companies which steal their ideas.

In its submission to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property (IP) the Forum is urging the government to provide greater protection for small business innovations after complaints that breaches are going unpunished because of the steep costs involved in pursuing them in court.

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Furthermore, the lobbying group believes that the high cost of both employment and manufacturing in the UK often leads to innovations being produced under license outside the EU – with significant transfer of knowledge abroad but no control over how it is used.

In addition to steep litigation fees, the organisation is concerned that patent costs, the slow process involved in protecting intellectual property, HM Revenue & Custom’s lack of clarity over the use of Research and Development Tax Relief and a lack of support within the UK’s public procurement process are combining to hinder innovation-led growth.

Alex Jackman, FPB senior policy adviser says, ‘Entrepreneurs are the UK’s real innovators and this innovation is one of the key elements that we need to nurture to drive economic recovery and growth.

‘There are several long-standing issues in the area of intellectual property so many of the measures outlined in the Hargreaves Review are certainly welcome.’

Jackman adds that small business owners should be able to secure their intellectual property more efficiently and cost-effectively, including through greater overseas protection of UK patents and IP.

‘We are also calling for better promotion of the concept of developing innovation, as well as improvements to supply chain cohesiveness and simpler, more effective tools and guidance alongside readily available specialist support, academic innovation hubs and incentives – including funding – to encourage small businesses to embrace patents and trademarks,’ he says.

Forum member John Collier of Monument Tools Ltd in Wallington, Surrey, has developed a new type of pipe cutting tool. Its biggest market is now in the US but he has experienced a number of patent and IP problems involving bigger companies bringing in similar products he believes should be protected designs.

“There have been cases where we’ve had IP protection but importers just ignore it,’ says Collier. ‘The tool is made in Asia, for example, put into the UK market and then they sit there waiting to be sued – in the full knowledge that small businesses can’t afford to sue them.’

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