WIPO Forum Focuses on Practical Initiatives for Improving Awareness and Use of Intellectual Property Assets by SMEs in OECD Countries

Geneva, September 14, 2007

The fifth annual WIPO Forum on Intellectual Property (IP) and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) for IP Offices and other relevant institutions in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), meeting at the headquarters of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on September 13 and 14, 2007, urged WIPO to continue and expand its awareness raising and capacity building on IP for entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises.  The Forum also requested WIPO to enlarge its focus to include business aspects of IP for students following courses in a range of disciplines, including, IP law, business, engineering, and technology management.

Addressing participants, Mr. Sherif Saadallah, Executive Director of WIPO’s Office of Strategic Use of Intellectual Property for Development, said that the Forum had become a flagship event for sharing ideas on new approaches and experiences in implementing effective IP outreach and support programs for SME.  He said that “mastering the ability to effectively use the IP system is … a key priority if private sector driven economic development is to be ensured. In today’s economic and trade environment, it is obvious that business development and competitiveness will be linked to the ability of entrepreneurs to acquire, manage and exploit their intangible assets which are increasingly dependent on the tools provided by the IP system.” Mr. Saadallah said that raising awareness and understanding of the IP system’s potential to boost business competitiveness was one of the prime objectives of WIPO and the Forum.  He pointed to the need to develop active partnerships with those who deal on a daily basis with SMEs and other innovative stakeholders. 

Micro-enterprises and SMEs represent over 90% of enterprises in most OECD countries. These companies are highly innovative and contribute to national economic growth through substantial job creation, investment and exports. In spite of this, the potential of the IP system to enhance commercial competitiveness is still typically poorly understood.  

The Forum was attended by representatives from 30 countries and over 50 institutions from a range of sectors, including representatives of IP offices and innovation related institutions responsible for promoting IP usage among the micro-enterprise and SME community. It provided an opportunity for fruitful exchange of ideas on policies and strategies to encourage greater use of the IP system by micro-enterprises and SMEs. Discussions were organized around four themes, namely, IP rights, entrepreneurship, start ups, spin offs and SMEs, reducing barriers; marketing activities and services of IP offices and innovation related institutions on effective IP asset management for improved competitions of business and industry; outreach and support programs on IP and financing; violation of IP rights and concluded with a roundtable discussion. 
Participants emphasized the importance of using intangible assets as collateral for financial transactions and called on WIPO to intensify efforts to raise IP awareness among concerned actors, namely, banks, financial institutions, business angels, venture and seed capitalists. Discussions also focused on the relevance of patent information, patent search services and tools, and infringement of IP rights in the daily business activities of SMEs.  
The Forum, first established in 2003, has catalyzed the development of a number of policies and strategies that have boosted use of the IP system by SMEs in the OECD region. The Forum has galvanized cooperation between WIPO and those stakeholders in WIPO member states who are responsible for promoting use of the IP system and development of practical tools to facilitate IP usage within the micro-enterprise and SME sectors. For example, SMEs are now able to take advantage of a user-friendly, interactive e-learning tool called “IP Panorama” which explains in practical terms the relevance of the IPR system to business. IP Panorama was developed jointly by WIPO, the Korean Intellectual Property Office and the Korean Invention Promotion Association. 
As part of its commitment to raising IP awareness among SMEs and to promoting more effective management of their IP assets for commercial benefit, WIPO established in 2000 a dedicated program of activities for SMEs. It aims at improving understanding among governmental, private and civil society institutions worldwide enabling them to formulate and implement policies, programs and strategies to enhance the strategic use of IP assets by innovators and SMEs. The program cooperates with other relevant partner organizations which promote the use of IP for innovation and creation such as SME associations, innovation center networks, business/technology incubators, universities, R&D institution, science and technology parks, venture capitalists, professional associations and chambers of commerce and industry.
WIPO SMEs Division further focuses attention on national and local capacity-building by providing customized tools and resources, training materials and e-learning programs (e.g. guides, best practices, case studies, etc.) to promote networking among organizations, and enhance IP business expertise at the local level. The program offers information on a wide range of business applications of the IP system, e.g. marketing, commercialization, IP valuation and financing to provide SMEs and other innovators with the practical knowledge and tools to be able to use the system.  These resources are available at https://www.wipo.int/sme
A wealth of useful information is also available from the monthly newsletter on IP and SMEs. To subscribe to this newsletter please enter your details at https://www.wipo.int/sme/en/ or alternatively contact WIPO’s SME’s Division directly at sme.mail@wipo.int.
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