The government has announced that, as recommended by the Gowers Review last December (reported in our last Bulletin) small firms are to be offered intellectual property audits. A pilot scheme run by the Patent Office (now operating as the UK Intellectual Property Office, although it has not formally changed its name yet) in collaboration with four Regional Development Agencies, will give up to 40 small firms three-day checks of their intellectual property.

The initiative forms part of a new Innovation Support Strategy which the Intellectual Property Office hopes will help business recognise, protect and maximise the value of their intellectual property assets and make them more competitive in the global economy. The initiative recognises the important truth that all businesses use intellectual property, even if it is no more than their trading name.

The Intellectual Property Office is also providing guidance on the World Wide Web for UK firms operating in foreign markets. China, India and Brazil are ingled out for special attention under this heading. Companies will receive simple and concise guidance on obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights to help them avoid ‘elephant traps’, overcome legal hurdles and obtain reliable professional help.

It is also running trials of ‘patent mapping’ – analysing information about patents and applications to identify market trends, which should help businesses plan their investment strategies and identify possible collaborations.