SME case studies

The European Patent Office (EPO), in close collaboration with renowned IP experts, has published a set of twelve case studies on a range of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from across Europe.

The studies show how companies can proactively adapt their IP strategy to real business needs, and illustrate the variety of approaches to and advantages of using IP. They also highlight the benefits that SMEs can expect from the planned Unitary Patent. This reform will offer businesses a simpler alternative to the existing system, and introduce a more cost-effective route to broad and uniform patent protection and dispute resolution throughout the participating EU member states.

For further information on this publication and to download the case studies, visit the EPO's website here.

Trade secrets: An efficient tool for competitiveness

A trade secret is confidential information in the context of business, commerce or trade. Trade secrets often constitute valuable resources to many companies whose assets may, for instance, not be patentable but have a great commercial value and therefore need to be protected.

This fact sheet illustrates the importance of trade secrets for businesses and provides insight into trade secret protection, which could prove beneficial in particular to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

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IP considerations for trade fair organisers

Tackling intellectual property (IP) issues in trade fairs and exhibitions is not only a crucial element for exhibitors. It is also highly important for organisers as the risk of IP infringement in a trade fair/exhibition may affect the credibility of the trade show and might discourage companies from participating in these events. Being aware of this, many organisers are now taking initiatives to ease the fight against IP infringements.

This fact sheet offers some possible measures that can be taken by the trade fair organisers to prevent the infringement of IP rights during trade fairs, and introduces real examples from a number of trade fair organisers and associations.

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On-site Helpline Hours in Brussels in December

European IPR Helpdesk welcomes you to the "Helpline Hours" in Brussels

First-line support on Intellectual Property Management

Once again, we are looking forward to meeting you in our Brussels Office, where you will have the opportunity to discuss your IP issues with our Helpline advisors face-to-face.

We will be happy to provide you free-of-charge, first-line support and information on your IP-specific questions.

The December edition of the Helpline hours will take place on

Wednesday, 7th December 2016 between 14:00 – 17:00

in our Brussels Office at Rue du Trône 98.

Please note that the use of the new Helpline hours in Brussels requires prior online registration. Just fill in the form here and select the most suitable time slot for you.

See you in Brussels soon!



UK Intellectual Property Office guide on IP and BREXIT

The UK Intellectual Property Office has published a guide concerning the future of intellectual property (IP)  rights and the recent Referendum decision on BREXIT.

This brief guide aims to cover the questions raised by the UK rights holders about possible consequences of the Referendum on their IP titles by giving information on trade marks, designs, patents, copyright and enforcement issues and the expected impacts of the Referendum.

Please click here to access the dedicated website.


IP Audit: Uncovering the potential of your business

Without any doubt, for today’s businesses one of the very first steps for being successful in the global business arena is to be aware of their intellectual assets. Nevertheless, because of the non-physical nature of these assets, it is sometimes not very easy for companies to identify and utilise them as a tool to reach their objectives.

This time, our brand new fact sheet discusses an invaluable tool to help companies grow in this competitive business world by disclosing their hidden potential: The IP Audit.

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New WIPO web pages on IP policies for universities and research institutions

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has enhanced its work to support universities and research institutions in disseminating the knowledge which they generate and created new web pages for IP policies for universities and research institutions.

Users can access a great number of IP policies, manuals and modal agreements from universities and research institutions worldwide in many languages focusing on different IP areas.
To access the "WIPO IP Policies for Universities and Research Institutions" web pages, please click here.

European IPR Helpdesk Bulletin Issue (21)

We are pleased to inform you that Issue 21 of the European IPR Helpdesk Bulletin has been released and is now available online.

This Bulletin issue is dedicated to Women and Intellectual Property. The women presented are remarkable examples of personal and professional enthusiasm, consistent force and creativity, representing the diversity of the intellectual property professional area.

Ms. Kaori Saito, Gender and Diversity Specialist, discusses the past and future gender and IP initiatives of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Ms. Claire Bury, the Deputy Director General in DG CONNECT (European Commission) with responsibility for regulatory aspects of the Digital Single Market is giving us an overview on some key statistics and programmes related to women in the innovation sector.

A short article developed by our partners from Enterprise Europe Network introduces the Women Entrepreneurship Sector Group (WEG), an initiative offering tailored support to women entrepreneurs.

Read our interviews to discover the IP professional experiences of three women entrepreneurs and one scientist.

As always, the Bulletin reports information about past IPR events together with some fresh news on the Helpline service.

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Design Management in a Furniture Company

Enterprises often devote a significant amount of time and resources to enhance the design appeal of their products. Protecting an industrial design may improve the competitiveness of a company and often brings in additional revenue. The case of a Belgium furniture designer examines possible solutions to copyright infringements at European level.


Mr van Hepart is a creative and passionate furniture designer running his own successful business of manufacturing and distribution of comfortable sofas and armchairs in the centre of Brussels. One day, in the course of his activity, he developed the idea of an innovative sofa design whose lines, contours, colour and shape contribute to conferring an appealing appearance to the piece of furniture.

He began to commercialise the product, which became very popular in Belgium, to the extent that an interior design magazine dedicated an entire page to the sofa including images of the product along with an interview with the designer.

Issues faced

After one year and a half, Mr van Hepart discovered that a competitor in Spain had begun to sell sofas reproducing the lines, contours, colour and shape of his popular sofa. And as if this was not enough, the competitor offered the product at a lower price. Knowing that such circumstances could cause a consistent economic loss, he decided to ask a legal advisor for support in order to assess the chances of protecting his design rights.

The advisor showed that, in order to prevent third party copies in the entire territory of the European Union, it was possible to protect the design rights through the Registered Community Design (RCD) or the Unregistered Community Design (UCD). The first one confers a long protection of 5 years renewable for five-year periods, up to a maximum of 25 years. Unfortunately, in this specific case, the divulgation of the sofa design (i.e. in the relevant case of commercialisation and publication of images in a specialised magazine), for a period exceeding one year, did not comply with the novelty requirement to obtain a RCD.
Nevertheless, while lacking any design registration, Mr van Hepart's design rights could be protected through the Unregistered Community Design, granting an exclusive right for a period of three years from the date on which the design was made available to the public.
Therefore the advice provided by the legal advisor was the following:

  1. to send a cease and desist letter to refrain and stop the infringing conduct on the basis of the UCD;
  2. to enforce the unregistered design rights before a court if the infringing conduct persists;
  3. to develop an effective strategy for the protection of the design rights in future products, being aware that registering a Community Design (granting an exclusive right for up to 25 years) may not be possible if the design is divulgated (through its commercialisation, publication, etc.) after the 1-year grace period (1 year from the first divulgation).

Actions undertaken and results

Mr van Hepart finally managed to solve the issue by reaching an amicable settlement with the infringing third party who ceased commercialisation of the sofa. Unfortunately, due to the earlier divulgation of his design, he was not able to register his community design (potentially granting a protection up to a maximum of 25 years) but he could rely on his unregistered design (granting protection for three years from the date of the first divulgation). Nevertheless, once the UCD expires, his sofa design will enter the public domain.

Lessons learned

As shown above, securing IP rights do not necessarily require registration but the choice of relying on an unregistered IP right should also consider the protection granted. The unregistered design grants an exclusive right for a relatively short period (three years). Such an instrument is very useful to secure the design rights in products with a short market life (e.g. seasonal products in fashion industries). On the contrary, it could appear as a weak instrument for products with a potentially long market life, given that the unregistered design will enter the public domain after three years.
Economic operators should be aware of the different instruments offered in order to set the best IP practices in accordance with their marketing and sales objectives.

In this regard, an adapted training on the available instruments to secure one's own intellectual property rights appears to be relevant in order to effectively manage potential conflicting situations and to valorise one's own intangible assets in the light of the planned business strategy.




Managing confidentiality when starting a business

Before starting the development of commercial activities with the support of external business partners, it is crucial to protect confidential information that can have a significant economic value. Any leakage of such information may cause irrevocable outcomes for businesses, especially during the initial stages of business development.
With this case study, you will discover how the Romanian entrepreneur, Monica Talpalaru, benefited from the European IPR Helpdesk services in managing confidential information when setting up her new enterprise.
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