The Management of IPRs in the Tech Transfer Process.

-By INSME Secretariat

The second INSMEAcademy session on Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, held on the 8th of June, focused on the importance of the management of IPRs in tech transfer with IP experts from the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Maria Coro PLA Gutierrez, Customer Department, and Sebastian Hanck, Team Leader of Supportive Instrument, Customer Department. The session was moderated by INSME Secretary General, Professor Giovanni Zazzerini.

Ms. Gutierrez opened the session by analysing the array of IPR mechanisms available to protect innovations. In particular, she began by highlighting the existence of a positive connection between the management of IP and the successful development of an innovation. The existence of this relationship is also demonstrated by recent studies by the European Patent Office, which confirm the strong and positive connection between the ownership of different types of IPRs and the economic performance of companies. In fact, SMEs with IPRs have 68% more revenue per employee than those without and SMEs that own a combination of patents, trademarks, and registered designs generate nearly double the revenue per employee compared to companies that do not own any. Ms. Gutierrez then pointed out how it is often a difficult choice for a company to decide whether to apply or not for IP protection, as on the one hand applying means disclosing knowledge and information about its technological innovation, while not applying means not protecting it, which could then lead to free-range exploitation of the innovation by others. In her opinion, therefore, it is often preferable to apply for IPRs, depending on how difficult it is to reverse-engineer a company’s technology. Other times, innovators may want to opt for “trade secrets”, in particular for those technologies or processes more complex and advanced which are in general harder to replicate, as this would allow a firm to not disclose the nature of their innovation indefinitely, unlike IPRs which grant protection only over a certain number of years.

She then continued by describing the two main functions carried out by IP rights, and proceeded to distinguish on whether there are analysed in the closed innovation process or in open innovation. The difference between them, in short, lies in the sources used by a company to create its product: in closed innovation a company usually creates a new product relying solely on its own ideas and know-how every step of the way; while in open innovation firms use both internal and external innovation by relying on knowledge flows. While the protection of IP is clearly necessary in the context of open innovation, since it responds to the need of companies to protect and monetize their knowledge and information resources, IPRs play a key role in both cases. Firstly, they contribute to granting protection to companies against counterfeiting or misappropriation, and, importantly, they provide a competitive advantage because of the exclusivity that IP rights provide to their owner. Moreover, Intellectual Property rights can be considered as valuable intangible assets that can be sold or licensed in order to facilitate technology transfer between companies and to generate economic benefits. Furthermore, Ms. Gutierrez described how they can also play a role in attracting investors “financing institutions, business angels or banks prefer to invest their money in companies with registered IPRs that are properly protected and enforced”, to quote her words.

The second part of the webinar was driven by the Team Leader of Supportive Instrument in the Customer Department at EUIPO, Sebastian Hanck. He started by illustrating the European Covid-19 initiatives launched to support SMEs protecting their IP. The aims of these projects are to overcome the problems that hamper the protection of SMEs innovations, which as Hank pointed out, concern a lack of knowledge and information in the field of IPRs, complex registration procedures and expensive legal procedures. He then provided an overview of “Ideas Powered for Business” an initiative to support SMEs during their various life cycles, the “Free Personalised consultations on Intellectual Properties for SMEs”, and finally of “Fund for SMEs” initiative. You can find more information on these programmes here.

Please find the PPT presentations used by the speakers here.

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