[Excerpt] Micro-Small-Medium Enterprises (abbreviated herein henceforth as “SMEs”) are global drivers of technological innovation and economic development. Perhaps their importance has been somewhat eclipsed by the mega-multinational corporate entities. However, whereas the corporations might be conceptualized as towering sequoia trees, SMEs represent the deep, broad, fertile forest floor that nourishes, sustains and regenerates the global economic ecosystem.
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Broadly recognized as engines of economic and global development, SMEs account for a substantial proportion of entrepreneurial activity in both industrialized and developing countries. Indeed, their role as dynamos for technological and economic progress in developing countries is critical and cannot be underemphasized. In industrialized countries, SMEs as major contributors to GDP and private sector employment, in more than a few countries contribute to as much as 60% of the national workforce. In a not unsubstantial portion of developing countries, SMEs are known to employ more than 70% of workforce.
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As foci of technological creativity, SMEs propel long-term growth by facilitating innovation and its diffusion across local, national, regional and international economies. However, innovation immediately begets intellectual property (IP) and the concomitant urgent need to address intellectual property rights (IPR). Hence, to realize the maximum value of innovation, SMEs need to recognize, understand and manage IP in order to protect their IPR and thereby accelerate their innovations towards commercialization; this will, in turn, not only improve their business revenue flow, but ultimately raise the standard of living in their respective countries. IP is thus the essential link in the economic/technological development chain, between creativity/invention, on the one hand, and innovation/commercialization, on the other.
SMEs therefore face a number of needs and challenges with respect to IP, IPR and management thereof. This will involve efficient utilization of assets, resources and capital, of which the human/intellectual aspect becomes increasingly important in the emerging global knowledge economy. SMEs in the future will need to recognize the reality and indeed necessity of economies of scale, i.e., the need to “merge” in virtual networks which whereas they might resemble larger firms, are not, i.e., are more like the jellyfish (loosely assemble, organized colony of single-cellular organisms: “SME networks”) and less like the whale (highly structured, systematized, hierarchical organism: the “corporate firm”). This will require sophisticated understanding how open innovation networks, IP management and global economic opportunities can be strategically merged to drive development.
Stanley P. Kowalski, , ITTI Director, UNH Law, Concord NH, "SMES, Open Innovation and IP Management: Advancing Global Development." A presentation at the WIPO International Convention on Intellectual Property and Competitiveness of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs), Rome, Italy, December 10-11, 2009.