IP Outreach Research > IP Use and Awareness


Title: Canadian Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs): Baseline Awareness of Intellectual Property
Author: Allan Gregg, Christopher Kelly, Michael Sullivan and Timothy Woolstencroft [The Strategic Counsel]

Industry Canada

Year: 2007


Subject/Type: IP Knowledge, IP Protection
Focus: Commercialisation, Outreach / Education
Country/Territory: Canada
Objective: To gauge overall awareness, knowledge and use of intellectual property by Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises.
Sample: 2.106 senior decision makers of Canada-based small and medium-sized enterprises
Methodology: Telephone interviews

Main Findings

Intellectual property (IP) does not figure among respondents' top rated business concerns. In line with this finding, many senior decision makers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not very familiar with the term "intellectual property": 41% rated themselves as "not familiar", 22% as "moderately familiar", and only 35% as "familiar". Familiarity is higher in metropolitan areas, in larger firms, in firms conducing research and development, and in some industry sectors, such as "Information and Cultural Services" (70%), "Professional, Scientific and Technical Services" (63%) and "Educational Services" (58%).

When asked to rate their familiarity with five types of IP protection, close to two fifths reported familiarity with copyright, trademark and patent protection; participants were less familiar with trade secrets (17%) and industrial design protection (15%). Themes and words most associated with the term "IP" are "ideas/information/knowledge/research" (17%), "copyright" (10%), "intelligence/intelligent people" (9%) and "ownership" (7%).

Almost two thirds of respondents could not name any formal methods or types of IP protection. Still, 19% were able to list at least one or more formal methods or types of IP protection, with copyright protection, patent protection and trademark protection most often evoked. The vast majority of senior decision makers surveyed could not correctly identify CIPO (the Canadian Intellectual Property Office) as the organisation responsible for the registration or granting of IP rights in Canada. Just 10% reported to be familiar with CIPO, whereas 73% did so for the Canada Revenue Agency and 54% for Nike.

One third of SMEs considered their company to have IP assets; license agreements, trademarks and copyrights were most often mentioned as methods used to protect these. 26% of companies with IP assets choose not to protect them, either because they consider it unnecessary or because they "just have not gotten around to it". Around 80% could not indicate any significant impediments to filing for IP protection, considering there were none (about 30%), or were unable to tell (about 50%). The top two impediments named were "cost" and "lack of information/too much research required". Knowledge about IP protection is obtained mostly via the media, school, personal/work experience, and business associations. Only a small minority reported using either free or commercial Internet IP databases.

78% of respondents did not have significant concerns over IP violation or infringement; 20% indicated that violations or infringements were a significant concern. Concern levels were highest for copyright and trademarks. When needing general information about IP, most SMEs would rely on the Internet (24%) or seek advice from a lawyer (20%); for expert advice, 40% would consult with a lawyer.

An overwhelming majority of companies surveyed (95%) reported that they had not used any CIPO products or services. Preferred sources of IP information provided by CIPO are its website, fairs, trade-shows and exhibits, and mail-out brochures.

[Date Added: Aug 18, 2008 ]