Globalization: Case Studies of Medium and Small Businesses (SMEs)

Globalization: Case Studies of American Medium and Small Businesses
Globalization: Case Studies of American Medium and Small Businesses

Thomas Larsson, in his book The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Globalization, defines:

Globalization is the process of world shrinkage, of distances getting shorter, things moving closer. It pertains to the increasing ease with which somebody on one side of the world can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody on the other side of the world.

Economically, this worldwide interaction among companies was at first limited to nations but in time international trade included private, large companies, and remained so until the early 20th century when corollary needs necessitated and encompassed smaller organizations and corporations. As the post-WWII global economies continued to connect, by the 1970s, even smaller companies, what are considered today to be medium to small businesses, brought themselves together, resulting in what we now consider modern globalization, expanded to and including micro-enterprise levels.

As a result, business document translation services, once considered vital only to Mega Corporations, are now increasingly necessary for the day-to-day communications and marketing of even the smallest Mom & Pop shops. The Internet and eCommerce afford every business, no matter its size, the channels and tools to become connected with, and providing products and services to, clients all around the globe.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, also known as SMEs, continue to benefit from globalization. A World Trade Organization report detailed the ever-expanding presence of SMEs in international trade. In summary, it found multiple relevant factors:

  • In most countries, SMEs account for a significant proportion of employment.
  • SMEs can benefit significantly from innovation, and their entry into the market can stimulate innovation in others.
  • Trade is the most common form of internationalization chosen by firms, including SMEs.
  • The development of e-commerce promises to expand export opportunities for SMEs and give them a global presence that was once reserved for large multinational firms.
  • Firm size constitutes an important dimension in the relationship between productivity and exporting.
  • While SMEs engaged in international markets tend to be more productive and innovative than those who are not, they can further improve their performance through internationalization.
  • Progress can be made in various areas to help unlock SME trading potential.

The EPO published a list of case studies regarding SMEs, all of which are transcending their business goals as these small and medium businesses thrive due to their participation in the international market. The study spanned multiple countries, sectors, and industries, and focused on innovative use of technology, strategy, management and intellectual property (IP) in order to not just compete but gain an advantage against their competition across the global stage. Below we cite a few of the SMEs, each of which you can click on for a detailed case study (PDF):


  • Technical field: Medical technology
  • Country: Ireland
  • Main product: Nebulizers
  • Business model: Product sales, technology licensing

When a company transforms from a small start-up to a global leader in aerosol technology for drug delivery in acute care, its strategic partners must be able to rely on the quality and protection of the products on offer. Key to addressing this challenge is a strong patent portfolio protecting both the core technology as well as a diverse range of product applications.


  • Technical field: Medical technology
  • Country: Italy
  • Main product: Biomedical measuring devices
  • Business model: Product sales

This medical device company is founded on sound IP. Sound IP increases visibility and recognition, facilitates co-operation with partners and justifies premium prices. Establishing IP early in the process safeguards investment in R&D and offers protection from imitation until compliance with regulatory standards is achieved.

Micrel Medical Devices

  • Technical field: Medical technology
  • Country: Greece
  • Main product: Infusion system
  • Business model: Product sales

As a medical technology company, Micrel uses patents and patent information strategically to safeguard future product lines, ensure freedom to operate and find inspiration for new technical developments.


  • Technical field: Biotechnology
  • Country: Austria
  • Main product: Anti-viral technologies
  • Business model: Technology licensing

As a drug discovery company, Marinomed relies heavily on patents. Its inventions are validated in almost 100 countries. The company actively manages and enforces its IP portfolio, which also includes some trademarks. Exploitation of its IP is based on two main licensing models.


  • Technical field: Digital communication
  • Country: France
  • Main product: IP gateways
  • Business model: Product sales

Working on the Internet of Things, the company profited from a pending patent application, using it as an asset when negotiating freedom to operate for some of its business.


  • Technical field: Telecommunications
  • Country: Spain
  • Main product: Fractal antennae
  • Business model: Technology licensing

Fractus, a producer of antennae, has built its business success on licensing its patented technology. Its robust IP portfolio and its commitment to enforcing its rights strengthen its position in licensing negotiations and safeguard further R&D investments.


  • Industry: Optics
  • Country: Lithuania
  • Main product: Lasers
  • Business model: Product sales

IP protection helped Ekspla to enter the market for industrial laser applications and take part in publicly funded international projects. Ekspla engages in joint patenting with its partners and combines patents with trade secrets where appropriate.


  • Technical field: Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy
  • Country: Germany
  • Main product: Waste heat power generators
  • Business model: Product sales

This former university spin-off sells standard components for heat power generators that recycle waste heat by turning it into electricity. Early acquisition of university patents was vital in order to attract funding. Orcan co-operates with other companies but simplifies its patent management by avoiding joint ownership.


  • Industry: Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy
  • Country: Estonia
  • Main product: Ultracapacitor
  • Business model: Product sales

As a producer of advanced materials for energy storage, Skeleton knows that it needs a strong patent portfolio if it is to keep on improving its technology and expanding its market. Employees at Skeleton are cross trained so that everyone can support the IP strategy and its alignment with the company’s R&D efforts.


  • Industry: Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy
  • Country: The Netherlands
  • Main product: Water deionization module
  • Business model: Product sales, technology licensing

Obtaining patents for its water-softening and deionization technology enabled Voltea to spin out from a larger company. The patents helped it to attract investors, set up co-operation with partners, and ultimately establish itself as a leader in the field.


  • Technical field: Machine tools
  • Country: Austria
  • Main product: Machines for manufacturing ceramics
  • Business model: Product sales

University-owned patents created the springboard for this spin-off to enter the market for 3D-printed ceramics in industrial applications. Measures stimulating the creativity of staff and research partners yield new and patentable ideas, supporting the build-up of the company’s patent portfolio and strengthening its market position.


  • Technical field: Machine tools
  • Country: Finland
  • Main product: Tool for cleaning and repairing pipes
  • Business model: Product sales

This traditional construction and renovation contractor expanded its activities to include the development of mechanical solutions. The decision to patent these solutions meant that sales of the resulting products, which are in part easy to copy, now play a major role in the company’s success.

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