The 2024 Initiative for European SMEs
The 2024 Initiative for European SMEs focuses on helping EU-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) protect their intellectual property (IP) rights through the Ideas Powered for business SME Fund.
Overview of the SME Fund Initiative
The SME Fund provides 4 distinct vouchers that allow for the reimbursement of various IP-related expenses. These cover applications for trademarks, designs, patents, and plant varieties, as well as IP Scan services. Depending on a country or region, SMEs could save as much as 75% on IP right applications and 90% on an IP Scan.
This year’s SME Fund offers funding for a broader range of services, including the legal costs for drafting and filing a European patent application (up to a maximum of 50 %, or EUR 2 000 if delivered by a professional representative from the EPO official list) and reimbursement for IP Scan Enforcement (in countries of participating offices).
An exhaustive list of fees per type of IP activity is available on the SME Fund web page.
Eligibility Criteria for the SME Fund 2024
To access the financial support provided by the initiative, SMEs need to meet certain eligibility criteria. In this section, we will discuss the definition of European SMEs, the requirements for participating in the initiative, and the types of intellectual property rights covered by the initiative.
Definition of European SMEs
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are an essential part of the European economy, representing 99% of all businesses in the EU. The definition of an SME is crucial for access to finance and EU support programs targeted specifically at these enterprises. According to the EU recommendation 2003/361, the main factors determining whether an enterprise is a SME are staff headcount, turnover, or balance sheet total. The thresholds for SME classification are as follows:
- Medium-sized: < 250 staff headcount, ≤ €50m turnover, ≤ €43m balance sheet total
- Small: < 50 staff headcount, ≤ €10m turnover, ≤ €10m balance sheet total
- Micro: < 10 staff headcount, ≤ €2m turnover, ≤ €2m balance sheet total
These thresholds apply to individual firms, and a firm that is part of a larger group may need to include staff headcount/turnover/balance sheet data from that group as well.
Continued support for Ukrainian SMEs
Following the initiatives launched in 2023, Ukrainian SMEs will maintain the ability to apply. This policy, embedded within the extensive range of EUIPO initiatives aimed at supporting Ukraine, offers Ukrainian companies a unique opportunity to secure funding dedicated to the protection of their intellectual property.
Requirements for Applying for the Grant
The SME Fund offers financial support to SMEs established in the European Union. The application can be submitted by an owner, an employee, or an authorized external representative acting on their behalf. Grants are awarded in the form of vouchers that beneficiaries can use to claim reimbursement for their IP costs. Reimbursement is always transferred directly to the SME’s bank account. Funds are limited and available on a first come, first served basis.
Before applying, SMEs must have the following documents ready:
- VAT certificate or national registration number certificate, issued by the competent national authority.
- Bank statement containing company name (account holder), full IBAN number with country code, and BIC/SWIFT code.
- Declaration of honor, signed by an authorized owner or employee of the SME, if the SME employs the services of an external representative or an external representative is acting on behalf of an SME.
All documentation submitted must be legible, in PDF format, and without password protection.
Application Process for the SME Fund 2024
The application process for the 2024 European SME Fund is designed to be simple and straightforward, with a focus on helping businesses protect their intellectual property rights. In this section, we will discuss the submission period, evaluation and selection process, and grant agreements and reporting requirements.
Submission Period and Deadlines
The call for proposals for the SME Fund is open from January 22, 2024, to December 6, 2024. The evaluation of submitted applications is performed on a weekly basis, with a cut-off every Friday. Applicants will be notified of the evaluation results within 10 working days from the cut-off date.
- Applying for the grant (voucher)
It is important that no eligible IP activities should be commenced before the grant decision is electronically communicated. In the event of non-compliance, associated fees will be classified as ineligible and thus will not be reimbursed.
- Receiving the grant award and vouchers
Applicants will be notified of the result. The grant decision related to specific voucher(s) will take effect on the date of its notification to the beneficiaries via email.
- Requesting and paying for IP activities
Beneficiaries may implement the IP-eligible activities linked to their awarded voucher(s). The activation of voucher(s) for IP-eligible activities is allowed for a limited duration of 2 months, with a potential extension of another 2 months. Once expired, vouchers cannot be utilized or reapplied for during the ongoing call period.
Beneficiaries may submit requests for reimbursement for the IP activities they have undertaken, up to the maximum value of their voucher(s).
In conclusion, the application process for the 2024 Fund for European SMEs aims to support businesses in protecting their intellectual property rights and promoting innovation and economic growth in Europe. By following the outlined application process, eligible SMEs can access valuable resources to help them thrive in today’s competitive business landscape.
Benefits of Enhancing IP Protection for SMEs
Enhancing IP protection brings many benefits to small and medium-sized enterprises. Let’s explore some of these advantages:
- Increased Competitiveness
- Protects against infringement
- Establishes a unique market identity
- Market Share Expansion
- Attracts and retains customers
- Builds trust and brand loyalty
- Investor Attraction
- Demonstrates commitment to innovation
- Opens avenues for funding and support programs
- Business Growth
- Enables licensing and franchising
- Facilitates partnerships and collaborations
Importance of Working with Specialized IP Firms for Cost-Effective Solutions
While the costs of IP protection can seem daunting, working with specialized IP firms can provide SMEs with cost-effective solutions. These firms have the expertise and experience to navigate the complexities of IP law and ensure that SMEs’ IP rights are adequately protected.
Specialized IP firms can offer valuable services such as:
- Strategic advice: They can help SMEs develop a tailored IP strategy that aligns with their business goals and maximizes the return on investment.
- Efficient filing process: IP firms are well-versed in the patent application process, which can save SMEs time and effort.
- Enforcement and defense: In case of IP infringement, specialized firms can handle the legal aspects of enforcing SMEs’ rights and seeking compensation.
By partnering with specialized IP firms, SMEs can benefit from their expertise and cost-effective solutions, allowing them to focus on their core business activities.
Don’t wait – take advantage of the 2024 SME Fund and Katzarov SA‘s expertise to strengthen your business through effective intellectual property protection.
Contact us & we’d love to answer your questions.