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UK PLC CUTS CORNERS WITH INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Added: (Wed May 16 2001)

Pressbox (Press Release) - Ref: 2001-09 Embargoed until 0001 hours Tuesday 8th May 2001


UK PLC CUTS CORNERS WITH INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY,
NEW SURVEY REVEALS

 60 per cent do not carry out intellectual property audits
 55 per cent have no strategy in place to deal with competitor infringements of intellectual property
 52 per cent do not monitor competitors’ trade mark and patent applications
 40 per cent have no system to identify when they need to seek patent protection for an idea or invention
 45 per cent have no designated executive responsible for keeping track of patents and trade marks

Over two thirds of UK businessmen believe that their company's success depends on protecting their intellectual property (such as their brands and inventions), yet frighteningly over half of them have no protection systems in place, laying their business open to attacks by competitors, according to a new survey conducted by Marks & Clerk, the UK's largest firm of patent and trade mark attorneys.

The survey reveals that although 70 per cent of companies believe that protecting intellectual capital is important or very important to their success, and 77 per cent believe that they should wherever possible protect their intellectual capital, many fail to carry out the most basic tasks to enable them to do so. Only 49 per cent have a system in place for identifying when they need to seek patent protection for an idea or invention, or trade mark protection for a new or potential brand. Only 30 per cent of companies carry out regular intellectual property audits, while only 37 per cent monitor the patent or trade mark applications of their competitors.

Certain sectors proved better than others at both recognising the importance of intellectual property and setting up some systems to protect it. Patent protection lies at the very heart of the development of new drugs and technologies - and the survey reflected this fact. 80 per
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cent of pharmaceutical companies and 88 per cent of technology companies think that protecting their products against the competition is vital and 68 per cent of pharmaceuticals and 51 per cent of technology companies have a system for identifying when patent protection is required.

However, in the engineering and finance sectors, intellectual property is often assumed to take care of itself. Only 35 per cent of engineering and 44 per cent of finance companies surveyed have a system for identifying when a company’s idea or invention requires patent protection (compared with 68 per cent in the pharmaceutical sector). However in financial services the importance of the brand is widely recognised, with 58 per cent having a system to identify when a new or potential brand name requires trade mark protection.

Simon Mounteney, Partner at Marks & Clerk, commented:
“Companies often don’t realise that their brands, inventions and sometimes their business processes can be safeguarded against the competition through trade marks and patents. Most businesses today cite the need for a strong brand - especially online – but do not know how to protect it by registering it as a trade mark in the UK and internationally, and then monitoring its effectiveness through keeping track of competitor activity. New ideas and inventions can often be protected by a patent, and it is important to address protection issues very early in the R&D process, as patent protection is, in many ways, monopoly protection. Patent or trade mark protection constitutes a powerful commercial weapon."

Other main findings of the survey include:

No audits for finance companies…
Surprisingly, auditing and accounting for intellectual assets seems oddly lacking from the financial services sector, with only 18 per cent of companies regularly auditing their intellectual property. Similarly, despite fierce competition from a raft of new entrants to the sector, only 26 per cent of financial services organisations undertake competitor or industry sector monitoring of applications for patents and trademarks.

No protection systems for technology companies…
The tech stocks slide should have left technology companies anxious to capture and extract the full value of their businesses - both tangible and intangible - but this may be a harder task than initially thought. Only 27 per cent of technology companies have a system in place for identifying when there may have been an infringement of their patents or trademarks, and just 26 per cent have an executive at board level designated with the task of looking after patents and trademarks.

34 per cent of companies surveyed have undertaken legal proceedings to prevent or stop infringements of their trade marks or patents.

Simon Mounteney concluded: "Companies which are serious about tapping into their intangible assets should undertake an audit to identify the intellectual property they own and the steps that can be undertaken to protect their assets and enforce their rights. Only 30 per cent of the companies we surveyed are regularly auditing their intellectual property. The audit picks up instances where businesses have inadvertently lost their rights through some basic errors, or in some cases, because they fail to exploit their own intellectual property. An audit also has preventative benefits. It is a good procedure for spotting things that haven’t been done but still could be; for identifying rights that are not being used effectively and for flagging-up flaws or gaps in practice and procedures that could be rectified."

- ENDS -
Notes to Editors:
Marks & Clerk is the UK's largest firm of patent and trade mark attorneys with offices in London, Birmingham, Oxford, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Cheltenham and overseas. Its experts cover all fields of industry including information technology and the internet, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, electronics, engineering, retail, and design and advertising. Clients range from the largest multinational corporations through to private individuals.

The Marks & Clerk Intellectual Property Survey 2001 was conducted by The Survey Shop on behalf of Marks & Clerk over the period of 23rd February to 14th March 2001. The sample was selected at random across the UK, and 203 telephone interviews were conducted with directors in the financial, engineering, technology and pharmaceutical sectors.

For further information, please contact:
Simon Mounteney, Marks & Clerk Tel: 020 7400 3000
Mobile: 07971 110666
Home: 01622 850878
Email: smounteney@marks-clerk.com

David Saunders Tel: 020 7608 3222
Marketforce Communications Mobile: 07970 100643
Email: dsaunders@marketforce-communications.co.uk

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