I am an SME

We work with SMEs at every stage of their lifecycle to help them make the most of IP

Typically an SME will fall into one of the lifecycle stages outlined below. Each stage has very different needs and IP requirements. We work with clients at each of these stages and are experienced in advising and building the right package of advice and IP rights to meet your business needs. Whether you're just starting out and preparing to covert a strong idea into an investable concept, looking for initial growth and scale or in the expansion or maturity stage, we can help you with your IP objectives.

Each of these stages has very different needs and will require different types of advice. We tailor our services to the development stage you are at and work with you to maximise your IP at each stage of your business lifecycle. No one size fits all and every client is different so you will have a tailored team and approach, but you can be confident the challenges you're facing we have dealt with many times.

SME Service


SMEs aren't making the most of their IP

We recently conducted some new research with YouGov to mark International IP Day on 26th April, the 2021 theme for which was SMEs. The survey of small and medium businesses (SMEs) in the UK (1-249 employees) found that only 21% of SMEs have taken steps to fully protect their intellectual property (IP) assets. The survey, of 436 SME decision makers, found that a further 22% have protected their intellectual property assets in part and, of the remaining respondents, 10% did not know whether their business was protecting its IP assets, and 21% did not think that they produced any IP assets at all.

This poll demonstrates that many UK SMEs are left exposed when it comes to their intellectual property assets. Intellectual property should be a core asset to any business. This is for both traditional protection of market position, but also for demonstrating innovation and branding. The ability to provide evidence can be crucial when seeking investment or acquisition, with many investors being acutely aware of the uses and importance of IP assets. Without careful consideration of IP, SMEs risk losing out to competitors on one hand, and losing out on investment and growth opportunities on the other.

Mewburn Ellis’ recently released Special Report, the IP Guide for SMEs which looks at the survey data in more detail, along with IP considerations for SMEs at all stages of their life cycle.

Five Reasons Why Forward-Looking SMEs Prioritise IP

1. It will lock out the competition
IP will stop your competitors from making use of your intangible assets such as your technology, designs or brands and may well steer them towards less well protected alternatives

2. It will enable you to charge a premium
IP gives you the ability to monopolise and exclude other people from your technology, design or brand enabling you to charge a premium price

3. It will make you more attractive to partners & investors
IP provides reassurance to investors and other potential partners that their investment won’t be impacted by competitors and they should be able to maximise their return

4. It will generate additional value & support revenue
IP will increase the value of your business and can also be used as a source of new revenue streams such as through licensing for example

5. It’s a tool for negotiation
IP is a useful tool as part of negotiations and can be used to help resolve issues. For example Freedom to Operate (FTO) issues can often be resolved with commercial agreements of there is an IP portfolio in place.

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises are the lifeblood of our economy and research suggests that high growth SMEs are typically those that invest in intellectual assets

At Mewburn Ellis we work with SMEs from all over the world and from a diverse range of sectors. What they all have in common is a desire to work with a trusted, strategic advisor and with needing their help to build an IP portfolio to secure and drive the growth of their businesses.

Intellectual property (IP) should be seen as a power tool for economic growth and a valuable business asset. SMEs are often the driving force behind new products, brands and creative designs, but many of them are not aware of the IP system and aren’t fully exploiting their innovative capacity. IP rights are also important as they may enhance the value of an SME in the eyes of investors and financing institutions.

SMEs that apply for patents, trade marks or designs are more likely to experience high growth than SMEs that do not, according to a joint study by the EPO and the EUIPO*. The chance of an SME becoming a high growth firm increases by 33% if it uses "bundles" of trade marks, patents and designs, instead of one single IP right category. When left unprotected, a good invention/creation may be lost to larger competitors that are in a better position to commercialise the product or service at a more affordable price, leaving the original inventor or creator without any financial benefit or reward. SMEs face many challenges, not least the more recent issues that Coronavirus has brought. Now more than ever, SMEs need to be forward looking in the context of their IP and need a trusted partner that can support them as a strategic advisor and work as part of their team to help proactively navigate what can be a challenging area of law.

*Source: EPO Publication High-growth firms and intellectual property rights: the IPR profile of high-potential SMEs in Europe

Read our SME blogs

Our clients are at the heart of our Trade Mark business

Our clients are at the heart of our Trade Mark business

by Joanna Smith

We are delighted to release our latest brochure 'Our clients are at the heart of our Trade Mark business'.

Medical devices: Insights through IP - new report 2024

Medical devices: Insights through IP - new report 2024

by Joanna Smith

We are delighted to release our latest report Medical devices: Insights through IP which looks at the recent IP trends in the medical devices sector.

Efficiency in Expansion: Meeting the Scale-Up Challenge in Cell and Gene Therapies

Efficiency in Expansion: Meeting the Scale-Up Challenge in Cell and Gene Therapies

by Katherine Collins

One of the pivotal challenges in the development and commercialisation of cell and gene therapies lies in scaling-up production. This challenge is particularly pronounced as companies transition from ...

From grass to graphene: could methane answer the call for rising nanomaterial demand?

From grass to graphene: could methane answer the call for rising nanomaterial demand?

by Amin Zouine

Methane, the principal component in natural gas, accounts for approximately a third of the planetary warming being experienced today1. Whilst it may have a shorter lifetime than CO2, methane is ...

Graphene Medtech: The Next Frontier

Graphene Medtech: The Next Frontier

by David Brooks

It has been 20 years since Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov first isolated graphene: the two dimensional wonder material. Since then, a huge number of applications for graphene have been ...

How Mewburn Ellis is working with SMEs

We work with lots of start-ups, spin outs and SMEs and it's the kind of work we really enjoy. Working with small businesses means we are a key part of their strategic team and often involved from the very start. It's exciting, working with entrepreneurs that are passionate about their ideas and their businesses.

They bring the ideas and the passion and we bring the IP knowledge and experience in how to protect their business using IP and then leverage those key assets to build their business further. For many we've been with them right from the beginning. We have clients that started in their shed or as a one man band and sold their companies for millions. We've been there and done it for the full IP lifecycle from registering those first patents and trade marks through to supporting funding rounds, mergers and acquisitions and IPO. Some examples of the types of work we have done are listed below:

  • Biotech Start-up – We’ve helped an life sciences company sell to a global market leader in a deal worth over $1BN. We worked with them as their in-house counsel to create and manage a large patent portfolio as well as undertaking IP due diligence and successfully defending a key patent from invalidation in post grant review.
  • Medical Devices Company – We started working with this client in 2006 when it was one man in a garage with a plan! Covering all aspects of their IP, we have worked with them to create over 100 patent families and there has not been one invention where we failed to get a patent. We’ve supported them through various funding rounds from Angel to VC and then finally at IPO.
  • Innovative Vegan Brand – We were recently instructed to act for this exciting new brand to carry out an audit of their trade mark portfolio following significant new investment and subsequent expansion plans. At the same time we became aware of an application filed by a large, very established food brand that directly infringed one of their trade marks. Determined not to be intimidated by the size of the brand and following a rejection by the infringer to our request to withdraw their application, cease use of the trade mark and pay the client’s legal fees; we are now proceeding with an opposition and preparing proceedings to file in IPEC if it is not possible to reach an agreement through mediation or commercial negotiations.
  • Entertainment Brand – We work for a leading independent record label and have been assisting them in a dispute with a well-known brand for alleged trade mark infringement and passing off of their logo. Our client’s logo, which features the same animal, has been used by them for over 30 years on its illustrious music catalogue and merchandise including a high profile fashion collection. As they have explored new merchandising opportunities, including in fashion, they have come into conflict with s brand powerhouse and its iconic marks. While much smaller, our client nevertheless has a strong trade mark case and we have worked hard with them to ensure they are not steam rollered by the larger brand. Tough negotiations are ongoing, focussing on protecting our client’s back catalogue.
  • Clinical-Stage Biotechnology Company – We started working with this company when they were just five people, now over 250 strong they have raised over $150M and gone from strength to strength. Working by their side we look after all their IP needs. We’ve created a large patent portfolio, helped with due diligence and freedom to operate and have even managed to get them a US patent granted super quickly in just 28 days from first filing.
  • Drinks Start-up – We’ve provided strategic advice for their trade mark strategy and helped them with trade mark protection across multiple jurisdictions. They were subsequently bought by a well-known international drinks company in 2019.
  • 3D Image processing Start-up – The patents we wrote for this company were recognised as key assets when they were acquired a few years ago. We are now working with the inventor on their next venture.
  • Pharma Company – We’ve worked with this client right from the very start in 2000, providing support for all aspects of their IP. From helping them build a patent portfolio with more than 40 families to due diligence for numerous funding rounds and finally IPO combined with a significant acquisition and merger.
  • Computer Vision Company – We were initially engaged by a VC to undertake due diligence for their investment, impressed with our work we ended up working for them directly. The technology is on the borderline of patent eligibility, so it is tricky to succeed, but we have! They have had a number of successful funding rounds since then and we continue to work with them.

SME Legal Resources

Small business leaders have to be educated on a wide range of topics and get to grips with key points quickly make the business decisions needed. The internet is a great resource but intellectual property is complicated and it can be challenging to know where to start. The guides below give you everything you need to know to have a good overview of the topic and make educated decisions.


Mewburn Ellis - your proactive, strategic and trusted IP partner

Whatever your IP needs and whatever stage of the development process you're at - we can help. We pride ourselves on being trusted advisors, it's one of our brand values and underpins the mentality of the firm. But we also consider ourselves to be the forward-looking IP firm. Put those together and it's a powerful combination. We bring to you the knowledge and experience of many years of working side by side with SMEs but also the vision and forward-looking approach of a firm that’s got its eyes firmly on the future. There is nothing more satisfying that seeing someone’s vision grow and become a powerful company in its market. We’ve seen that many times and it never fails to be exciting.

We share your passion and entrepreneurial spirit

We’re business owners too and we understand the challenges faced when growing a business, but more importantly we’re passionate about working with business that want to build and leverage their IP.

We know how to make IP work for your business and focus on return on investment

Investing in IP is a commitment and whilst necessary, this can be daunting in the early stages of your business or when investment in other areas is needed to. We’ll help you understand where to invest and why and how to generate the most return from your IP.

We’ve done it many times

The examples above are just a small snapshot of the work we have done in this area. From one man in his shed to billion dollar deals we’ve been there, done that.

We work by your side and are proactive and hands on

You need a strategic partner who will be proactive and make sure all the right plates are spinning and nothing gets dropped. That’s where we come in. We take the time to understand your business, what you needs and goals are and build an IP strategy with you to meet these. Importantly we will build and flex with you as you grow and develop.

We’re here for the long haul

We build long standing relationships with their clients and grow with them. Over 40% of our client base have worked with us for over 20 years. Small businesses have become very large ones and we have been there every step of the way. In a business built on trust, long-term relationships and shared understanding are key to effective working relationships. We invest time in this.

The IP Guide for the Forward-Looking SME: Find out why IP knowledge is so important for ambitious SMEs

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Whether you are aiming for an exit strategy through investment or acquisition, or to grow and further establish your business, IP can play a key role.

Perhaps you have some experience of IP but are you unsure if you're making the most of it? Perhaps you have no experience of IP and would like to understand how you could use it to your advantage?

Our IP Guide for SMEs will:

  • Help you ask and answer the right questions about IP
  • Outline small changes you can make that will make a huge difference to capturing and obtaining cost-effective and relevant IP
  • Help you understand IP life-cycle management and portfolio development
  • Help you have a keen eye on your commercial goals in an IP context
If you would like a copy please click the link below to download. If you would like to speak to us about your needs, just get in touch. We would love to talk them through with you.