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Inventions that changed the world – SME edition

Entrepreneurs and small businesses play a critical role in the economy and this year World Intellectual Property Day focus’ on how they can use intellectual property (IP) rights to build “stronger, more competitive and resilient businesses.”

The Economic and Research Council reported that SMEs have a key role in boosting productivity and contribute around 47 per cent of revenue to the UK economy. The Federation of Small Businesses provide more detail reporting that SME’s account for 99.9% of the business population, account for three fifths of the employment and half of turnover for the private sector which illustrates just how important the role they play is.

Recently a study by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has shown that companies with at least one patent, trade mark or registered design generate on average 20% higher revenues per employee and pay their staff on average 19% higher wages compared to companies that do not own any of these IP rights.

The correlation of strong economic performance is most pronounced for SME’s. Those that own IP rights have, on average, 68% higher revenue per employee than SME’s that don’t. However, less than 9% of SMEs in the study owned any patents, trade marks or registered designs at all.

Some of the world’s best-known inventions and brands are the products of inventors and entrepreneurs who were savvy enough to protect their ideas. This week, to mark World IP Day we’ll be looking at five of our favourites, beginning with Thomas Edison.

Edison was an American inventor and businessman. A true entrepreneur, Edison formed 14 companies but is best known for inventing the lightbulb. On 27th January 1880 he received the US patent that embodied the principles of his incandescent lamp. Around the same time, English chemist Joseph Swan was also working on similar project and in 1878, two years before Edison, patented a lightbulb the UK.

The rival lightbulb inventors used each other’s work to improve their own. Swan sued Edison and the UK courts upheld that Swan’s invention was prior. Edison sued Swan for infringement, but Swan’s prior research and publication provided him with a strong claim. Eventually the two inventors came together and in 1883 formed Edison-Swan United which became one of the world’s largest manufacturers of lightbulbs.

Had Swan or Edison not protected their innovations however, the story could have been quite different and all the cards would have been in the hands of the party with the patent. Partner and Patent Attorney Martin Hyden says “You don’t have to be a Swan or an Edison to have good ideas. Many businesses do not attempt to patent their inventions because they do not think they are worthy. If you have an idea that is likely to give a competitive edge to your business, think about securing the value of the intellectual property, whether by patenting or registering a trade mark or design. These rights can then help the future growth of the business.

Wynne-Jones IP are proud to offer a specialist patent service designed specifically for entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs to provide the protection you need at affordable prices. For more information please call us on +44 01242 267600. 


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