Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Enforcing small firms' patent rights

Funded under: FP5-INNOVATION-SME


Innovation Policy Studies - Innovation Management

This project sets out to measure empirically SMEs' ability to monitor infringement of their patents, and their experiences of litigation. Its conclusions are based on questionnaires completed by over 600 SMEs, drawn from every EU Member State, which had obtained a European or United States patent between 1994 and 1997, and on interviews with the majority of these respondents. The study team was led by the University of Dublin (IE).

Key findings are:
· Two-thirds of the sample firms had experienced attempts to copy their patented inventions, but only one in five actually used the courts to defend their patents.
· For 49%, fear of the cost of patent-defence litigation had a �very big' or a �significant' impact on their investment in invention.
· The current patent system works poorly for SMEs. Especially in the US, large firms use the resources which they have available for litigation to intimidate SMEs.
· For SMEs, patenting is currently not cost-effective as a means of protecting intellectual property.
· Only in very rare cases are penalties for infringement awarded in practice.
· Compulsory expert arbitration should be investigated as a solution to the excessive costs of patent litigation.

The report is published by the Innovation Directorate of DG Enterprise as Innovation Papers no. 10 (EUR 17032).

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