High-growth firms and intellectual property rights. IPR profile of high-potential SMEs in Europe, May 2019

This study assesses whether SMEs that make more frequent use of IPRs are more likely to become high-growth firms (HGF). It also examines the particular ways in which HGFs shape their IPR strategies prior to experiencing high growth.



This report, produced jointly by economists from the EPO and EUIPO, examines the relationship between IP activity and the growth prospects of European SMEs.

It is often said that SMEs are the backbone of Europe’s economy. Indeed, according to the European Commission, SMEs constitute 99% of EU businesses, employ two out of every three employees, and produce 57% of the Union’s GDP. However, a small proportion of those firms account for a disproportionate share of employment and turnover growth in the SME sector. Those high-growth firms represent a small share of European SMEs but they are the future of the European economy, and some of them will be the European industry champions of tomorrow.

Being innovative, these firms rely heavily on intellectual property rights. They grow internationally, primarily within the EU single market but also elsewhere, and therefore need to secure Europe-wide and international IP protection. As shown in the study, these high-potential SMEs often turn towards the EPO and EUIPO to secure such protection. SMEs and individual entrepreneurs represent 20% of applications filed from Europe at the EPO, and an even higher share of the trade mark applications and design registrations filed with EUIPO. Like universities (9%), they are a major element of the European innovation ecosystem.

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