Intellectual Property is a key aspect to consider for SMEs looking to develop and, if used correctly, can be a tool to grow and protect a business. However, the types and scope of protection of different forms of IP are frequently confused and misunderstood. This lack of understanding, along with the frequently prohibitive costs of certain forms of IP, is often the cause of businesses neglecting actual and potential IP rights that could be hugely beneficial. Nevertheless, there are a number of options for UK SMEs to help them develop and utilise their IP.
IP Audit Plus
One option for SMEs based in the UK is the IP Audit Plus scheme, run by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) in conjunction with its IP Audit partners, Innovate UK Edge (formerly Enterprise Europe Network), Scottish Enterprise and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and the Welsh Government. The IP Audit Plus scheme allows SMEs to obtain advice from a Chartered Patent or Trade Mark Attorney on their existing intellectual property assets and IP management , as well as highlighting areas that may be eligible for further protection. The IP Audit is partially funded by the UKIPO and its partners to a value of £2500, with the business paying a one-off fee of £500 (including VAT) upon completion of the IP Audit. In order to be eligible for the IP Audit Plus scheme, the business must be classed as an SME with fewer than 250 employees, be enrolled on a business support scheme offered by one of the UKIPO’s IP Audit partners and be able to demonstrate in the application that the IP audit will form a key part of achieving the business’ growth plans.
Once a business has received their IP Audit, they may also be eligible for further funding to implement the recommendations raised in the IP Audit. The IP Access Scheme was implemented in September 2021 to allow businesses that have received an IP Audit through the IP Audit Plus scheme to obtain funding of up to £5000 (including VAT) to cover the cost of services related to the management of IP assets, commercialisation of IP, licensing and franchising agreements, IP insurance, IP valuation, tax relief advice and professional fees for IP services in the UK and abroad. The funding cannot be used to pay official fees for filing patent, trade mark, or registered design applications. The IP Access scheme was initially intended to be available for a period of 6 months, until the end of March 2022. However, due to the success of the scheme, we understand that the scheme has been extended for a period of 12 months, up to 31st March 2023.
We do not know if it is intended to extend the IP Access scheme further, and therefore we recommend that any entity eligible for funding makes urgent preparations to apply for the funding in view of the imminent deadline.
Wynne-Jones are able to advise you on how best to manage and develop your IP portfolio for any size of business.
Max Bertrand and Ian Lambert
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