Local companies can access new market opportunities and gain a competitive advantage by protecting their Intellectual Property (IP) and using Espacenet, the European Patent Office (EPO) search engine.
That was the focus of two Invest Northern Ireland workshops this week in which local companies heard expert advice from IP specialist Lisa McDonald-Maier of the EPO in Vienna. Representatives of around 30 companies from across Northern Ireland attended the workshops.
Ms McDonald-Maier described the benefits to companies of using Espacenet, which is completely free to access and enables users to search the EPO archive of over 50 million patent documents from all over the world.
Olive Hill, Invest NI’s Director of Technology and Process Development, said: “As the economy continues to experience the ongoing effects of the credit crunch, local companies need to consider ways in which they can differentiate their product offering from the competition. The Espacenet search engine can be an integral tool in identifying opportunities for refining existing products and diversifying into new areas that could prove lucrative.
“For example, Espacenet provides access to all the information on any patent, including technical drawings. This can be a useful guide for companies seeking to submit a patent application but are not sure what level of detail is required.”
Ms Hill added: “Taking out a patent prevents others from utilising protected IP and can give the company that owns it a valuable edge over their competitors. Espacenet can help companies check that their idea is unique before they apply for a patent and also enables them to check on the activity of other companies in their sector so that they do not miss out on new developments.”