- Support of companies' growth
- Support of internationalisation
- Support of SMEs
Intellectual Property Attaché Network
Intellectual Property Attaché Network
The Intellectual Property (IP) Attaché targets 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. 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 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 is a non-ministerial department of the UK government responsible for the collection of taxes);
- The company trades abroad in one of the four markets: China, India, Brazil, and South East Asia.
The network can also provide support to foreign businesses doing business in the UK who require legal advice in IP.
The Intellectual Property Attaché Network (IP Attaché) 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, Brazil, and South East Asia. Once the company contacts the IPO, the adviser will consult on IP issues and how companies' 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 expo, IP training courses, and China IP roadshow. 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 four emerging markets. IP Attaché supports internationalising firms at all stages and across industry sectors. New young exporters benefit from the IP awareness raised by IP Attaché who helps to evaluate the value of their IP. Established firms receive support in terms of networking promotion and 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 (equivalent to €1.13 million - 6 July 2018) and is generated from the money gained from trademarks and patents registered in the UK.
- National funds
Employers' or employees' organisations
Chambers of Commerce, host governments
The IP Attachés have helped to protect an estimated £440 million (or €497 million) worth of British intellectual property across the globe since its establishment. 80% of the participants were SMEs who actively involved in doing in business in China, India, South East Asia and Brazil. According to the latest survey, up to March 2017, the IPO has supported 20,653 UK businesses.
Number of participants per year during 2012-2017:
- 2012 - 1,095
- 2013 - 3,403
- 2014 - 4,501
- 2015 - 6,357
- 2016/2017 - 4,829
The evaluation of the programme shows that the IP Attaché has supported UK businesses across industry sectors and business sizes. One of the impact case studies of the IP Attaché reported by IPO in 2016 was related to IP Attaché’s IP protection support to help UK firms to successfully remove counterfeit version of UK products in China, worth over £8 million (€9 million).
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 its 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 DIT, Chambers of Commerce, Business Associations and host governments. This enables businesses to have updated information regarding IP issues in their target markets to have quicker response to any changes to protect their IP.
In addition, the measure also contributes to strengthen the links with local authorities and embassies in China, Brazil, India and South East Asia, which helps to strengthen the business environment for UK businesses.
According to the evaluation, the biggest weakness of this measure is related to the limited resources of the IP Attaché teams 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.
One of the biggest challenges of this programme is to maintain the number of staff. The turnover rate has been a big problem with IPO. The workload that is attributed to the limited capacity within the team makes it more challenging to handle all the requests.
The formal evaluation of the IP Attaché programme, in 2014, suggested that the IPO should be more proactive in updating information for different markets and approaching SMEs. In addition, there should be a follow-up of the progress of SMEs that were supported by the IP Attaché.