Intellectual property and the external environment
An Intellectual Property Office case study

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Page 3: Social factors

An important social factor affecting intellectual property has been the growth in the number of small businesses. More of these new businesses are being set up by women, an increase of 9% on the previous year. The IPO has responded to these trends by providing several services to meet the needs of individuals or small businesses. In 2008 there were 100,000 new small businesses set up.

Identifying intellectual property

The IPO Central Enquiry Unit (CEU) deals with general enquiries, such as how to identify intellectual property, how to protect it or license intellectual property for use by others. The CEU is a central point of contact for businesses and individuals. It provides advice on how and where to access specific information relating to IP. The CEU offers advice by telephone, email and in person.

The IPO also offers online services to help people understand IP issues. This means that they can then make informed decisions about how to use and protect their own IP. IPO”s free online IP Healthcheck service allows businesses to identify their IP through a simple step-by-step questionnaire.

IP Healthcheck also covers issues such as licensing IP. It then creates an online report offering a set of recommendations. The report comes with instructions for the customer on how to action these recommendations. There are also links to further information and resources.

Other services offered by the IPO include online searching of the patents, trade marks and designs databases. These searches allow customers to check whether their invention, trade mark or design already exists or identify existing technology which may help develop their own invention. This technology could only be used if it was not protected by a patent. This means that customers can ensure that they are not infringing someone else”s intellectual property. In addition, they can also file patent and trade marks applications online.

Building awareness

To build awareness of the importance of IP, the IPO undertakes work with the education sector. This work has two main aims:

  • to educate the next generation of innovators explaining that innovation and creativity have value and can be linked to financial reward if they are protected by IP rights
  • to build respect for intellectual property among young people. The IPO's Wallace and Gromit 'Cracking Ideas' campaign introduces the idea of innovation to schoolchildren and encourages them to come up with ideas of their own. It shows the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers the value of ideas.

Intellectual Property Office | Intellectual property and the external environment