SME Focus

IP Management for SMEs … Now is the right time

Essam Disi of Dubai SME outlines how best to manage intangible assets – ranging from human capital and know-how to ideas, brands, designs and other intangibles.

aaaAlongside human creativity and inventiveness, Intellectual Property (IP) is all around us. Every product or service that we use in our daily lives is the result of a long chain of big or small innovations, such as changes in designs, or improvements that make a product look or function the way it does today. Therefore, intellectual property protection is critical to fostering innovation. Without protection of ideas, businesses and individuals would not reap the full benefits of their inventions and would focus less on research and development.

Regardless of what product your SME makes or what service it provides, it is likely that it is regularly using and creating a great deal of intellectual property. Almost every SME has a trade name or one or more trademarks and should consider protecting them. Most SMEs will have valuable confidential business information, from customers’ lists to sales tactics that they may wish to protect. A large number would have developed creative original designs. Many would have produced or assisted in the publication, dissemination or retail of copyright work. Some may have invented or improved a product or service.

Consequently, SMEs should systematically consider the steps required for protecting, managing and enforcing IP, so as to get the best possible commercial results from its ownership. On the other hand, the intellectual property ecosystem has many other players and SMEs don’t need to do everything alone. In recent years, governments in the region have started to give more attention to supporting innovation and IP creation. Most of the focus has been on IP protection and much less on IP creation and commercialization.Untitled-1

The UAE has always been a supporter of innovation. A collaborative effort among public and private stakeholders is driving diversification where entrepreneurs and SMEs play a huge role, encouraging the innovativeness and entrepreneurial aspirations of UAE’s young generation. Going forward, the UAE government is focused on promoting R&D and innovation:

Building on the nation’s strategies, the Dubai’s 2021 plan also entails a  strong focus on innovation to achieve sustainable economic growth and improvements in productivity levels.Untitled-2

With all these plans and upcoming initiatives, SMEs should consider how best to manage their intangible assets – ranging from human capital and know-how to ideas, brands, designs and other intangibles.

SMEs should realize that IP may assist them in almost every aspect of business development and competitive strategy, from product development to product design, from service delivery to marketing and from raising financial resources to exporting or expanding your business abroad through licensing or franchising.

In the coming years, we expect to see the Government providing more encouragement and support to high-tech start-ups and other innovative SMEs through grants, guarantees, subsidies and/or soft loan schemes, which are provided via various public funding institutions and banks that directly or indirectly recognize the importance of intellectual property assets. In addition, there is growing awareness that intellectual property (IP) assets can be monetized. It can be sold, licensed or used as collateral or security for debt finance, or it can provide an additional or alternative basis for seeking equity from friends, family, angel investors, venture capitalists, specialized banks and even from regular banks.pp

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