Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent over 90% of enterprises in most countries, worldwide. They are the driving force behind a large number of innovations and contribute to the growth of the national economy through employment creation, investments and exports. Despite the importance of SMEs for the vitality of the economy and the potential offered by the IP system for enhancing SMEs competitiveness, SMEs often underutilize the IP system.
In October 2000, WIPO Member States endorsed a proposal to establish a substantial new program of activities, focusing on the intellectual property-related needs of SMEs worldwide. WIPO's program of activities for SMEs aims to encourage a more effective use of the intellectual property system by SMEs worldwide. The program seeks to raise awareness of the relevance of intellectual property for small and medium-sized business and promotes initiatives to make the IP system more accessible, less cumbersome and more affordable for SMEs.
WIPO's SME initiative aims to:
- Promote a more active and effective use of the intellectual property system by SMEs;
- Strengthen the capacity of national governments to develop strategies, policies and programs to meet the intellectual property needs of SMEs;
- Improve the capacity of relevant public, private and civil society institutions, such as business and industry associations, to provide IP-related to SMEs;
- Provide comprehensive web-based information and basic advice on IP issues to SME support institutions worldwide.
WIPO's SME brochure [PDF]
WIPO's activities for SMEs are guided by the need to look at practical concerns and challenges faced by companies in this sector. The role of intellectual property rights in the overall business strategy of an enterprise is presented from a managerial perspective. The relevance of patents and utility models is highlighted within the context of the R&D and product development strategy of an enterprise. Similarly, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications are portrayed as tools to enhance an enterprise's marketing strategy, including the need for market access, market segmentation and product differentiation. Copyright and related rights are seen as key tools in the development of a knowledge-based service-oriented economy.
Some of the key activities of the SMEs Section include:
- Development of comprehensive and user-friendly promotional information materials, guides and training packages;
- Organization of training seminars for specific target audiences (in partnership with relevant international or national institutions);
- Research studies on issues relating to the business use of IP in various countries;
- Assistance to SME support institutions, such as innovation centers, incubators, chambers of commerce, R&D institutions and others to establish IP-related support services to their members and clients;
- SME website with articles, case studies and best practices targeted to entrepreneurs and SME support institutions; and
- Circulation of a monthly electronic newsletter on intellectual property for SMEs.
Activities are conducted largely in partnership with organizations working to promote SME development at local, national and international levels in order to integrate intellectual property within a broader framework that addresses the multi-faceted business challenges faced by SMEs.
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