According to the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), SMEs represent 99 % of all companies in the EU. Being a key element of the European economy, in the last 8 years they have created almost 85 % of new jobs and, overall, two thirds of total private sector employment in the EU.
In Latin America, almost 9 out of 10 companies are classified as SMEs and microenterprises (in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay) and they play a key role in generating employment at the regional level (60 % of formal productive employment). However, they suffer from a particularly significant productivity gap: they account for only a quarter of the region's total production value.
Roberto Escarré, Director of the International Project Management Office (University of Alicante) and spokesperson for the Latin America IP SME Helpdesk, believes that these data "show that Latin American SMEs have great potential for growth and expansion and that protecting their IP rights can help them in this process".
Integrating IPR protection into a comprehensive business strategy is a significant first step, aimed at investing in asset registration, creating motivation and trust in the innovation and development areas, as well as a consequent productive cycle that can lead to a safe and effective expansion and commercialisation.
But what is intellectual property?
Intellectual property (IP) concerns creations of the human mind, such as inventions, logos, designs, literary and artistic works. These intangible assets can be protected under IP rights legislation: patents, trade marks, industrial designs or copyright models, among others.
IP registration offers peace of mind and security to owners, since it allows them to be the only ones in the market who can exploit their invention/creation as the only market solution. This also excludes competitors and reduces the likelihood of theft or copying (trade secrets, logos, designs, etc.). Moreover, in case of infringements by third parties, it allows for defensive strategy against competitors.
In addition to promoting investment and minimising risk, registering IP rights also fosters partnerships and the legitimate expansion of operations through the monetisation of intangible assets by sale or licensing, and enables such assets as tools for commercialisation (such as the USound and Rows trade marks in Argentina, or the patent for the gas dyeing machine of the Brazilian SME Akmey, both of which are examples of success).
According to Pedro Duarte, Project Leader of IP Key Latin America, "Intellectual property rights are the cornerstone on which innovative SMEs must develop their activity, because they protect the intangible assets of companies, those related to knowledge, creativity and intellectual capital".
You can safely display your creations in the market
In Europe, SMEs that protect their IP rights have reported a significant improvement in their reputation, creating an enhanced image of trustworthiness, strengthening long-term business prospects and increasing turnover.
If we also consider that in countries such as Mexico, IP-intensive companies contributed 47.8 % of national GDP in 2019, accounted for 33.6 % of all jobs in 2019, and had wages that were 18.1 % higher on average, compared to those industries with no IP rights strategies, it is clear that, as Duarte says, “it becomes essential to bring IP closer to SMEs in order for them to understand the importance of its registration and protection, as well as the particular benefits”.
This includes supporting SMEs in learning how to identify the different IP assets they work with, how to develop strategies to protect them, and how to use IP-related knowledge in marketing the product locally, regionally and internationally.
EU-funded projects, such as IP Key Latin America and the Latin America IP SME Helpdesk, seek to generate this approach, either through training and education or through direct guidance and advice, respectively. Sometimes, they design joint initiatives bringing together relevant information, data and best practices to meet the initial needs of SMEs that are beginning to consider asset protection.
An example of these initiatives has been successfully registered and is available for SMEs in Europe and Latin America at:
- IP Protection in Brazil for EU SMEs – General Landscape
- IP Protection in Chile for EU SMEs – General Landscape
- IP Protection in Mexico for EU SMEs – General Landscape – (with Spanish subtitles)
- IP Protection in Argentina for EU SMEs – General Landscape.