“Most of the time, people think of IP in terms of patents while trade marks, industrial designs and other elements of IP remain widely unrecognised even though their protection would be affordable for most SMEs.”
Vedran Đidara, Senior Expert HAMAG-BICRO and European IPR Helpdesk Ambassador in Croatia
“There is one issue that many Croatian companies think about too late: Many products that made it to the international market only have patents valid at national level.”
Professor Ivan Stefanic, Director TERA Tehnopolis Ltd. and European IPR Helpdesk Ambassador in Croatia
What are the central intellectual property issues Croatian innovators are currently facing? What kind of support do SMEs need in this field?
Our Croatian ambassadors Professor Ivan Stefanic, Director at TERA Tehnopolis Ltd., and Vedran Đidara, Senior Expert at HAMAG-BICRO give some insights on the Croatian IP landscape and share their experience as European IPR Helpdesk ambassadors.
Can you identify “hot topics” regarding IP and innovation in Croatia?
Ivan:I have noticed that quite often valuable products are introduced to the market without the slightest check of possible IP infringements and reasonable protection measures. And there is one issue that many Croatian companies think about way too late; many products that make it to the international market only have patents valid at national level.
Vedran: Currently, many Croatian SMEs make use of funding opportunities focusing on innovation and fostering IP protection. Unfortunately, however, Croatia still ranks below many European countries in most intellectual property categories such as patents or trade marks. This shows a lack of awareness of the importance of IP among SMEs which also correlates with a relatively slow national jurisdiction. I therefore think that creating a sustainable national innovation system and effectively implementing smart specialisation strategies will eventually foster new IP and a new generation of technologies.
Have you noticed certain special features, strengths or weaknesses for IP in your country?
Ivan:Regarding patents, it seems that a large share of applications is abandoned before registration. Furthermore, many patents are filed by a physical person without a clear vision on how to commercialise them. Among the patents filed in Croatia, there is a higher amount of utility patents while international patents are still quite rare.
Vedran:Being innovative and creative is a typical feature and traditional value for Croatians. But IP and especially patent protection is perceived to be expensive which results in comparably few IP registrations. A lack of knowledge about IP matters from the entrepreneurs’ side creates a mental barrier which stops them from taking IP into their strategic plans and slowly incorporating it into their everyday business. Moreover, a lack of trust in the legal system as well as long IP enforcement processes have led to a negative perception of IP protection. This doesn’t mean that innovation doesn’t take place – it just doesn’t necessarily translate into IP registrations.
What are common IP practices and obstacles for SMEs and researchers in your country?
Ivan:SMEs rarely have written IP policies. Particular cases of IP protection are outsourced to certified patent and trademark representatives while major public universities and research institutions mostly have well-structured IP policies. Only particular cases of IP protection are outsourced to certified patent and trademark representatives. HAMAG-BICRO has established a national network of five certified regional Technology Transfer Offices.
Vedran:Besides the prevalent perception of high costs for IP protection, I think that “fear of the unknown” is the most common reason for not using IP as a tool for business growth. Most of the time, people think of IP in terms of patents while trade marks, industrial designs and other elements of IP remain widely unrecognised even though their protection would be affordable for most SMEs. To give an example: The protection of a trade mark at EU level can be less than 850 euros for a period of ten years.
Who asks for your advice, primarily?
Ivan:In my case, the majority are either SMEs or university researchers with a general focus on science and technology.
Vedran:I have noted that most inquiries came from SMEs in the ICT sector. However, more and more other industries seem to be searching for IP support.
From your personal experience, what are the most common IP issues faced by SMEs and research organisations in your country? What could be done to help?
Ivan:There are cases in which IP is not protected at all, and sometimes companies only act after being informed about IP infringement. I think we still need to raise awareness on IP through effective campaigns and the use of both positive and negative examples.
Vedran:I do agree that most issues result from a lack of IP knowledge. To give an example: When joining collaborative research projects, Croatian partners sometimes are not sure of what they have to invest and what they will get out of the project afterwards. Therefore, it is crucial to decide on future ownership and financial benefits of the innovative product before the project start. There are specific guidelines, but I do agree that raising awareness on these issues could prevent situations like that.
What type of IP-related activities do you suggest to your clients?
Ivan: I keep stressing the importance of a clear-cut and efficient IP strategy to begin with. Moreover, I give advice on when to initiate IP protection and how to defend in the case of infringement.
Vedran:Usually, my first advice is to identify the potential loss in terms of time, effort and money if they ignore IP issues in their business. I then recommend taking a look at their closest competitor at national and global level. This kind of benchmarking can provide significant insight into their competitor’s strategy which can be solid ground to start building their own. Free trade mark and patent databases provide a useful overview and I also use factsheets from the European IPR Helpdesk which provide SMEs with a general overview while making their own IP issues more tangible for them.
What is most exciting about your work?
Ivan: For me, the most rewarding experience is when things turn out well in the end; a successful IP registration, the successful commercialisation of a product or a successful defence of IPR.
Vedran:I love to get to know the entrepreneurs and their business with its specific approach to the market. Every innovator is finding their own path and providing new solutions for current issues in their business. This creates new challenges for me and in the end, we both learn something new.
European IPR Helpdesk Ambassadors: Your Local Contact Points
In cooperation with the Enterprise Europe Network, the European IPR Helpdesk has established an ambassador scheme with close to 50 ambassadors in more than 20 European countries. As our local European IPR Helpdesk contact points, they are ready to help you to integrate IP in your business strategy and provide you with individual support at your doorstep. Ivan Stefanic and Vedran Đidara have been European IPR Helpdesk ambassadors since 2013.
Professor Ivan Stefanic is a full professor in the field of biotechnology and a certified patent and trade mark representative. He is the director of the regional technology transfer office and business development company TERA TEHNOPOLIS Ltd. His activities range from teaching students the various aspects of IPR and counselling entrepreneurs regarding technology transfer to awareness raising and the promotion of IPR in the general public. Moreover, his work comprises filing and prosecuting actual cases at national and international level as well as the negotiation and implementation of license agreements on behalf of his clients.
Vedran Đidara is a Senior Expert at HAMAG-BICRO. For the last ten years, he has been actively involved in business coaching ranging from product development and product segmentation to setting up complete R&D teams with the aim to foster innovative products and services in client companies. Through HAMAG-BICRO, he has supported numerous SMEs regarding their innovative ideas and products, helping them to identify and overcome gaps on their way to success. As an intellectual property expert, his work has focused on identifying key issues with clients and helping them to protect their innovations through the available legal instruments.
stefanic [at] tera.hr
+385 1 2352 628
vedran.didara [at] hamagbicro.hr