IP Management:

IP Guide for SMEs

IP Guide for Small- and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

Some Important Steps to be Considered While Developing an IP Strategy


By: World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

  • Check trademark databases to avoid using an existing trademark and protect trademarks before launching a new product or service with a new brand name. It is important to consider export markets when doing so and avoid using brand names that may have an undesirable meaning in a foreign language.


  • Identify patentable subject matter and make sure it is patented early enough to avoid losing the invention to competitors.

  • Make sure that patentable inventions are not shared with others or published before filing a patent application. In order to meet the patentability criteria inventions must be considered “new”. Early disclosure of an invention (e.g. through publication) will compromise the chances of the invention being considered new, and therefore patentable.

  • Make sure that trade secrets are kept within the enterprise and prepare, where appropriate, confidentiality agreements (see IPR help desk) when negotiating and sharing information with business partners in order to protect trade secrets.

  • For export-oriented firms, make sure IP is protected in all potential export markets. In the case of patents, it is important to bear in mind that an enterprise generally has 12 months from the date of filing of a national application to file the same patent application in other countries.

  • Use your IP portfolio as leverage when seeking sources to finance your business (e.g. include IP assets, particularly patents, utility models and industrial designs, in your business plan as it may help to convince investors of the market opportunities open to your enterprise).

  • Use patent information  available in patent databases to develop your business strategies.


  • When conducting joint research with other enterprises or research institutes, make sure that there is sufficient clarity on who will own potential IP generated from the research project.

  • Monitor the market and make sure that your IP assets are not being infringed. If violation of your IP rights is detected it may be advisable to contact a lawyer (see also "What Should Your SME do to Resolve Disputes Related to Intellectual Property?").

  • If you are unsure about how to best protect your company’s intangible assets, conducting an IP audit may be a good first step in order to identify all your company’s valuable information and to develop an IP strategy. On occasions, companies are unaware of the wealth of assets they possess in the form of information, creative ideas and know-how and may, therefore, not take adequate steps to protect them.

The checklist is by no means exhaustive. These are some of the basic strategies that have been successfully pursued by enterprises that have fully integrated IP rights into their business strategy.