Contact Us

Growth of UK investment in intellectual property rights

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has released “Fast Facts 2017” detailing some key statistics about trends in investment by UK companies in intellectual property rights (IPRs). Katherine Wright, patent attorney at Adamson Jones, takes a closer look at these trends and the impact they are having on the UK economy.


Investment in intellectual property rights by UK-based companies is growing year on year. Individuals and companies realising the benefit of protecting their intangible assets, such as branding, knowledge and new innovations, are seeking protection from patents, trademarks and registered design rights. In addition, increasing use of unregistered rights (unregistered design right and copyright) provides protection against copying for assets which cannot be covered by patents or trademarks (eg literary works, music).

In 2000, UK investment in intangible assets stood at approximately £47 billion. By 2014, this had risen to £70 billion. While growth has been seen across a wide range of sectors, a particularly fast rate of growth has been seen since 1990 in software and branding. The growth in software is perhaps not surprising, given the rate of development of computers and phones over that period. The rapid growth of investment in branding may reflect the increasing numbers of products on our shelves, increasing competition in the marketplace, and the subsequent importance of standing out and being recognised by consumers.

Breaking down the figures across the different intellectual property rights, in 2014 investment in intangible assets protected by patents accounted for approximately 0.4% of total UK GDP (£7.5 billion). Trademarks accounted for twice that amount, with total investment in intangible assets protected by trademarks estimated at £15.1 billion. Registered and unregistered design rights almost equalled trademarks, with total investment in intangible assets protected by those rights reaching an estimated £14.5 billion, or approximately 0.8% of GDP.

Meanwhile, copyright – which arises automatically on creation of an original literary or artistic work, and is particularly important in the creative industries, such as music, publishing, photography, film, TV and radio – accounted for an estimated 47% of total UK investment in intangible assets protected by intellectual property rights. In 2011-13, copyright-intensive industries contributed an estimated 8.4% of UK GDP, and 6.3% of UK employment. 

All this demonstrates the importance to the UK economy of intellectual property rights and the investment which is made in them. Of course, where there are rights, there is also an infringement of those rights. Intellectual property crime costs the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds each year, with tobacco, clothing, alcohol, footwear, watches and jewellery being particularly susceptible to exploitation by organised crime gangs. The goods supplied to the UK in contravention of intellectual property laws are often made from cheap materials and are of low quality, and may not conform to UK safety standards. They can do real damage to industries that strive to produce legitimate, high quality and safe goods.  The UK government works hard to crack down on illegal importation of goods and, in 2014/15, 1.6 million consignments of infringing goods, with a retail value in excess of £56 million, were seized by officials at the UK border.

If you would like any more information about protecting your assets, then please contact Adamson Jones and we would be happy to discuss your options with you.

Need some advice?

Call us on +44 (0) 115 947 7977 to speak to
one of our IP experts based in Nottingham, Leicester and London.

Providing professional services of the highest quality