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Intellectual Property

The Issue

Intellectual Property (IP) rights provide protection to businesses that have developed new products. Our research shows nine per cent of small businesses have been the victim of IP theft on more than one occasion. Nearly a third (29 per cent) of those say they’re unable to resolve the matter because of the complicated and expensive legal process.

Action FSB has taken

  • We want IP claims of up to £15,000 to be included in this track. The current small claims limit is £10,000.
  • We published our Spotlight on Innovation report in July 2018 which shows that the most common IP protection that small businesses applied in their business was confidentiality (including non-disclosure agreement) (22%), and copyright (15%). Only a few small businesses apply for trademarks (11%) and design registration (7%). The least likely type of protection that small businesses use is patents (5%).

  • We published our Key to the Knowledge Economy report in May 2015.

  • We’re working with the IPO to raise greater awareness of IP with small businesses

  • We’re working with IP industry bodies to understand the implications of Brexit on small firms’ protections and use of IP

Our Asks

We believe protecting IP is key to supporting small, innovative businesses, especially those reliant on research and development as their main sources of income. We have welcomed reforms and modernisation to the IP regime (including the Hargreaves Review) in the UK. Swifter and more easily accessible compensation for IP infringement is vital, if the UK is to lead innovation and provide creative services.

We call Government to explore the interaction of the patent box policy with R&D tax credit applications, and to look at improving the awareness and understanding of it. Government must review the Patent Box Tax Relief to ensure it is small business friendly.

Evidence suggests that in spite of the benefits of patent box it may be difficult for smaller companies to capitalise upon the benefits of the tax relief given they are likely to lack dedicated R&D and accounting departments. Anecdotal evidence suggests recent changes to applying for the patent box policy tax relief are having a detrimental impact on smaller businesses willingness and ability to take advantage of this intervention. The requirement to show or track R&D expenditure to ensure the amount of IP income that can benefit from the relief is limited according to the proportion of R&D expenditure that the claimant has actually incurred is having a chilling effect. This is largely because of the additional administrative burden placed on smaller businesses. Whilst we understand the policy objective of the nexus approach, the impact of the additional administrative burden on smaller businesses needs to be fully evaluated and mitigated. We are therefore calling for a review of Patent Box tax policy take up by smaller businesses.

Achievements in...



  • We’ve lobbied extensively and the Government has pledged to introduce a fast-track IP small claim process in the Patents County Court.

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