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Exclusive: Survey reveals woeful IP understanding among young people


Figures compiled by YouGov, and shared with Managing IP ahead of World IP Day, show only 13% of young people have a good understanding of IP rights

Most young people in the UK have a sub-standard knowledge of the intellectual property rights available to them, with more than 80% of survey respondents reporting either average or below average understanding, figures seen by Managing IP have revealed.

According to research by IP attorney firm Mewburn Ellis in conjunction with polling agency YouGov, a majority of people aged 16 to 25 do not understand the IP rights that underpin creations.

The figures showed only 13% of respondents rated their knowledge as seven or higher when asked to score their understanding of the legal protections for inventions out of 10.

The figures come ahead of World IP Day tomorrow, April 26, which this year centres around IP and youth.

According to the survey, in which more than 200 people aged 16 to 25 were asked to rate their understanding as well as identify the best methods for increasing awareness of IP rights, 56% of respondents rated their knowledge between 3 and 5 out of 10.

Male respondents were slightly more confident than women: nearly three quarters (71%) rated their knowledge between three and five, whereas two thirds of female respondents (67%) said their knowledge was between one and four out of 10.

STEM of success

Despite lacking knowledge of the legal rights that underpin innovations, respondents did say they felt supported to be creative.

When asked whether they thought that innovation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) was supported and encouraged in education settings, most respondents thought that it was supported moderately well. 

Robert Andrews, patent attorney and partner at Mewburn Ellis in London and who led the report, said this year’s World IP Day will provide an important opportunity to talk about and support young people engaged in innovation (including in STEM).

He added: “The next step is to ensure that they feel confident about protecting their work, and that they know when they have recourse against anyone trying to exploit their work without their permission. If young people cannot protect their creations, youth innovation is going nowhere.”

School of thought

Andrews told Managing IP there is an opportunity to incorporate IP into the national curriculum.

“Everyone is interested in ideas, and young people tend to lead the way when it comes to developments in new technology. There is an interest to be tapped in terms of educating about how to monetise and protect that innovation.”

In addition to assessing their own understanding of IP, respondents were asked about the best way of teaching young people.

The most popular solution (48%) was learning in school or college, while second (38%) was being in the workplace or via a work placement.

The third option, learning via government-approved online resources, was the least popular choice with just 14% of respondents favouring that option.  

Andrews told Managing IP that this shows a topic like IP is more digestible when taught as opposed to relying on self-driven methods.

He noted that, despite the figures, there are initiatives in place such as the ‘Careers in Ideas’ programme, by industry body IP Inclusive, that seek to drive positive change and promote IP-driven careers to students. 

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