- Support of companies' growth
- Support of internationalisation
- Support of SMEs
Intellectual Property Attaché Network
Intellectual Property Attaché Network
The Intellectual Property (IP) Attaché Network supports SMEs and micro businesses as defined by the European Union because these companies often lack the capacity and expertise to deal with IP related issues, while IP is highly important to them. According to government data (2014), 80% of the organisations engaged with the IP Attaché are SMEs and the remaining 20% comprises large companies.
All companies based in the UK can approach the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) by writing an email or calling the members of staff. There is no application form or joining fee, all services are free of charge. Companies which meet the following criteria will be eligible to be a member of the IP Attaché and gain full support from IPO:
- The company is based in the UK, that is, they are registered via Companies House (the official government agency that incorporates and dissolves limited companies) and HM Revenue and Custom (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, a non-ministerial department of the UK government responsible for the collection of taxes);
- The company trades abroad in China, India, Latin America, South East Asia and the US.
The network can also provide support to foreign companies doing business in the UK who require legal advice in IP.
The Intellectual Property Attaché (IP Attaché) Network consists of IP experts who provide IP expertise to companies wishing to internationalise.
The programme is delivered by the IPO team based in London and by IPO advisers based overseas, including China, India, Latin America, the US and South East Asia. The most recent new attaché post was appointed in Washington, DC in 2018. Once the company contacts the IPO, an adviser will consult on IP issues and how the company's IP can be protected in the respective foreign market. Advisers can show the business how to register for their patents, or help solve problems related to IP.
Additionally, IPO regularly organises seminars, workshops and meeting events for businesses and local authorities. Such events could involve, for example, companies’ in-house seminars, business and trade fairs, IP training courses, and IP roadshows. For example, the IPO adviser based in Singapore raises awareness of the service at business and stakeholder events and collaborates with host governments across South East Asia to discuss local and international IP frameworks and environments. However, sometimes Intellectual Property support can be delivered with the support of the embassy and business councils via networking events.
The network was first introduced in 2011 when the UK government called for a new support instrument to help UK businesses go overseas in these four emerging markets. IP Attaché supports internationalising firms at all stages and across industry sectors. New exporters may benefit from the IP awareness raised by IP Attaché which helps to evaluate the value of their IP. Established firms receive support in terms of networking promotion and may benefit from the dialogue with foreign governments about IP protection issues.
Even though IP Attaché is a part of a government-backed programme, it is fully funded by the IPO. The annual budget is about £1 million (€1.1 million as at 13 June 2020) and is generated from the money gained from trademarks and patents registered in the UK.
- National funds
Employer or employee organisations
Chambers of Commerce, host governments
Between 2012 and 2019, IPO attachés gave one-to-one direct support to nearly 2,000 UK businesses on individual IP issues. They have hosted over 1,000 business outreach and education events. At these, they reached over 31,000 UK exporters operating in overseas markets.
In 2018, the global network of IP attachés dealt with IP cases worth over £115 million (€127 million as at 13 June 2020) in potential lost revenue.
The measure provides much value to UK businesses, including SMEs, by promoting their IP capability to foster their international businesses in emerging markets. The first strength of the programme is related to the comprehensive services it offers to participants including consultancy, assessment of the company’s IP values, and addressing requests from businesses to solve IP related issues in foreign markets, enhancing reputation and networking. All these services are free of charge and the application process is easy, simple and fast.
The second advantage of the programme is that it ensures a systematic linkage between the UK and foreign hubs in the target markets, including regular monitoring and connections with different support providers such as the UK Department for International Trade (DIT), Chambers of Commerce, Business Associations and host governments. This enables businesses to have updated information regarding IP issues in their target markets and respond more quickly to any changes in order to protect their IP.
In addition, the IP Attaché Network also contributes to strengthening the links with local authorities and embassies in China, Brazil, India and South East Asia, which helps to build a more favourable business environment for UK businesses.
According to an evaluation conducted in 2014, the IP Attaché teams have limited resources to deal with a high number of requests, from all kinds of businesses. In addition, the IP Attaché does not make best use of intermediaries in facilitating initial consultancy regarding the IP issues to businesses. This leads to an overload of work of the IPO team members. Another weakness of the programme, which is frequently criticised by its stakeholders, is related to the limited geographical scope of the foreign markets that the programme is operating in.