The Commission and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has launched the new EU SME Fund, which offers vouchers for EU-based SMEs to help them protect their intellectual property (IP) rights. This is the second EU SME Fund aiming at supporting SMEs in the COVID-19 recovery and green and digital transitions for the next three years (2022-2024).
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Small is beautiful, but if SMEs want to grow or take the lead in new technologies, they need to protect their inventions and creations, as big companies do. New ideas and expertise are the main added value we have in the EU. With this Fund, we want to support SMEs to face those peculiar times and remain strong and innovative through the decades to come.”
Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “It goes without saying that SMEs have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. But what does not change is that they remain the backbone of our economy, of our ecosystems. This Fund will support SMEs to valorise their innovations and creativity. And this is crucial for SMEs to recapitalise and drive the green and digital transitions.”
The EU SME Fund, with a budget of €47 million, will offer the following support:
- Reimburse 90% of the fees charged by Member States for IP Scan services, which provide a broad assessment of the intellectual property needs of the applying SME, taking into account the innovative potential of its intangible assets;
- Reimburse 75% of the fees charged by intellectual property offices (including national intellectual property offices, the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the Benelux Intellectual Property Office) for trademark and design registration;
- Reimburse 50% of the fees charged by the World Intellectual Property Organisation for obtaining international trade mark and design protection;
- Reimburse 50% of the fees charged by national patent offices for the registration of patents in 2022;
- From 2023, further services could be covered e.g. partial reimbursement of the costs of the patent prior art search, of the patent filing application; private IP advice charged by IP attorneys (for patent registration, licensing agreements, IP valuation, alternative dispute resolution costs, etc.).
SMEs need a flexible intellectual property toolbox and quick financing to protect their innovations. Hence, for the first time the new EU SME Fund is now also covering patents. The Commission’s financial contribution, which amounts to €2 million, will be dedicated fully to the patent related services. For instance, an SME could apply for the reimbursement of the registration fee to patent its invention in a Member State.
EUIPO will manage the SME Fund through calls for proposals. The first call is launched today on the EUIPO website.
In order to ensure fair and equal treatment of potential beneficiaries as well as safeguarding an efficient management of the action, the application for grants will be open throughout the period 2022-2024. The applications will be examined and evaluated based on a ‘first in first out’ criterion. SMEs with no experience in the area of intellectual property are encouraged to apply first for an IP Scan service and only subsequently to the other services.
At the EU Industry Days (8-11 February 2022) a special session will be dedicated to the SME Fund allowing SMEs to ask questions of the experts managing the Fund and receiving a practical guide on how to apply for the different services. The special session is scheduled for 11 February 2022. It can be followed remotely by subscribing to the EU Industry Days.
The EU needs to increase the resilience of its SMEs to enable them to cope with the current challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis and to help their transition to green and digital technologies. The EU capitalises on the value of the intangible assets its companies create, develop and share, by helping them manage these assets more effectively and by providing financial support and better access to finance.
The Commission published the Action Plan on Intellectual Property to support the EU’s recovery and resilience in November 2020. Among the priorities of the Action Plan, the Commission committed to promote an effective use and deployment of intellectual property tools, in particular by SMEs. Concretely, the Commission offered financial support for SMEs impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, helping them to manage their IP portfolios as well as helping them move towards green and digital technologies.
In 2021, the Commission together with EUIPO launched a first EU SME Fund offering services to reimburse the costs of IP Scan and national trade mark and design registration costs. A total of €6.8 million of the budget has been used by 12,989 SMEs from all 27 Member States. In total, 28,065 services were rendered in the first year of the initial SME Fund, which shows that the action proved very successful.