Making efficient use of the intellectual property rights (IPR) system is a challenge for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Studies in Europe show that many SMEs fail to utilize IPRs because they feel the process is too expensive or the return too low.
The biotech industry is somewhat unusual in that it shows a high level of proficiency with regard to patents and IPRs, generally acquired by "hands-on" experience. Knowledge of IPRs in the IT sector, by comparison is still too fragmented; and this is also the case for many other industrial sectors. This is not surprising: most graduates have never studied anything about IPRs, and there are only about four Nordic higher education institutions teaching IPR management. All graduates need education, theoretical and practical, in IPRs.
Online searching of IPR should be free and easy: a Nordic portal
A Nordic IPR search portal, modelled on the lines of the Danish portal, would help Nordic SMEs to become more familiar with their IPR landscape. Nordic national patent and trademark offices should also propose IPR surveillance services with a more supportive pricing model, and courses targeting more specific industry sectors or needs.
A Nordic Patent Defence Union to prevent intimidation of SMEs by large companies
Several studies indicate that one of the main reasons SMEs do not trust the IPR system is that they feel they lack the resources to enforce their rights legally should this become necessary. At the EU level, a compulsory Patent Litigation Insurance scheme is under discussion. One alternative solution may be a Patent Defence Union: a voluntary association of SMEs accepting mutual compulsory arbitration and defending their IPRs together. Formation of a Nordic Patent Defence Union could be a first step towards a European initiative to prevent intimidation of SMEs by large companies.