Late last month, members of the European Commission, Business Associations, Chambers of Commerce and other SME intermediaries came together at Brussel’s Residence Palace, to discuss a critical and complex issue facing expanding EU/COSME SMEs – intellectual property (IP).
The International IP Stakeholders’ Meeting has become one of the Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME)’s events-of-the-year. Participants spent the day networking, asking questions, and hearing from a wide array of speakers. Even more importantly, they learned about the resources available to SMEs all year round through the South-East Asia, China, Latin-America IP SME Helpdesks, as well as the European IP Helpdesk.
This year saw a particular focus on fast-moving, smaller, innovative European enterprises under the EU Innovation Council’s SME Instrument. Supporting these SMEs, and ensuring that their IP is protected when they operate internationally, is crucial for the EU’s economy.
The event featured live case studies from companies, presenting real examples of SMEs that have experienced IP-related challenges when opening up to new markets. In the afternoon session, stakeholders heard from inspiring entrepreneurs who have successfully navigated the IP journey.
There are many innovative SMEs in the EU, but, too often, they fail to put in the required time, money and energy to develop an informed IP strategy on time. Although there have been plenty of positive developments in legislation, IP theft and counterfeits remain a big problem.
One of the main topics of discussion, was how essential IP is for the success of innovative companies. The sessions emphasised the importance of electing the right partner when going international, as well as the timely inclusion of IP strategies in business plans, mitigating the sustainability risk of going abroad, and ensuring access to finance. On a broader scale, there was a call for more cooperation and interconnection between open innovation and creative management.
SME leaders Guy Desseaux of PaperMint, Torsten Seeger of Consult2C and Rossella di Conno from Intrado SRL, all emphasised how important it is not to “go it alone.”
The Helpdesks offer very comprehensive advice and services to SMEs preparing to branch out into overseas markets or for those already present in third markets. Time and again, speakers and moderators reiterated the importance of addressing IP issues early in the process, and exploiting the available supports. Throughout the day, one message resounded over all others. “Please,” said EASME’s Natalia Martínez Páramo, “make use of the excellent free-of-charge services that the IP Helpdesks provide.”
In his closing remarks, Deputy Head of the DG Market Unit Industrial Property and the Fight against Counterfeiting, Harrie Temmink emphasised that globalisation is a reality facing Europe, and we cannot continue to lag behind: “You have heard today a lot of experiences, example cases, horror stories about doing business in the rest of the world ... I’m very glad that the International IP helpdesk is obviously one of the places out there to help European SMEs in facing all these challenges.”