Intellectual Property SME Scoreboard 2016

This study looks at the attitudes of small and medium-sized companies in the European Union towards intellectual property (IP) protection – how they use it, how they access it and how they benefit from it.

SME Scoreboard

The wealth of data now gathered shows the reality of the IP environment for innovative European SMEs and provides clear indications of areas for action.

António Campinos, Executive Director of the EUIPO

The Intellectual Property Rights and Firm Performance in Europe report, released in June 2015, showed that large companies are four times more likely to own IP rights than smaller companies — 40% of large companies have registered their IP rights, compared with 9% of small businesses. It also showed that companies owning IP rights (IPR) performed better than those that did not.

The Intellectual Property SME Scoreboard 2016 examines in greater detail the use that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make of IPRs, why they do or do not register their rights, as well as the problems encountered by SMEs that do register their IPRs.

The study shows that a large majority of companies that have chosen to register their IPRs report positive effects, like increased reputation or improved image of reliability, strengthening of long-term business prospects and increased turnover.


Main facts

  • The majority of SMEs that registered an IPR believed that it had either a ‘very positive' (13%) or ‘positive' (47%) impact on their business; 36% declared that it had no impact.
  • Internet domain names and confidentiality (trade secrets) are the most important protection measures. Trade marks, notably national trade marks, come in third place.
  • The main reasons motivating SMEs to register an IPR are to prevent copying, to gain better legal certainty, and to increase their value and improve their image.
  • The main reasons for not registering an IPR are that SMEs do not consider their intellectual assets innovative enough, they lack knowledge and either see no benefits in registering or do not meet the requirements to do so.
  • Altogether, 31% of SMEs that use IPR have suffered from IPR infringement, of which micro SMEs feel the negative impact more than larger SMEs do.
  • 12% of SMEs that suffered from infringement do not take any actions against infringement and 43% choose bilateral negotiations, followed by 33% that initiate court procedures.
  • Three main areas are indicated by SMEs who do not take any measures to protect their innovation when asked about the reason of lack of protection:
    • Lack of knowledge/information;
    • Complex and costly registration procedures, and;
    • Complex and costly court procedures in IPR infringement cases.

Who is behind the study?

The report was commissioned by EUIPO, through the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, and was carried out by GFK, a market research firm specialised in evaluating public opinion.


The fieldwork took place in each of the 28 EU Member States, with a total of 8 970 telephone interviews between June and September 2015; SMEs could also choose to complete the survey online if they preferred.

The sampling approach used aimed to achieve a sufficient number of interviews with SMEs that had registered an IPR and those that had not, while ensuring a spread of interviews across company size and sector. A sample of SMEs was selected using the Orbis database and matched with the EUIPO and EPO databases of companies that had registered IPRs, in order to identify companies with and without IPR use in advance. This method allowed the specific targeting of companies across company size and IPR use. This enabled the analysis to consider a larger sample of SMEs that had registered an IPR than is found in the general population of SMEs.

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