An Ambitious Plan for Enhanching the Use of IPRs – Finnish IPR Strategy Has Seen Daylight

(IPRinfo 2/2009)

Marja-Leena Mansala

The seeds for a national IPR strategy for Finland were sown already in 2004. IPR University Center suggested to Sitra (the Finnish Innovation Fund) that a survey about the Finnish IP law as the infrastructure of innovation activities should be conducted.

”The survey was not carried out, but the idea survived”, says Deputy Director General Marja-Leena Rinkineva from the Business Law Group, Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

”It took some time before the idea of a national IPR strategy took off, but it was finally launched in the Government’s 2007-2011 Program. The eventual outcome is very pleasing”, says Rinkineva, who is in charge of IPR issues in the Ministry.

Innovation policy is a broader paper
During the strategy work there were some national IPR strategies to serve as examples, but the Finnish approach is unique. Its focus is on the exploitation of the IPRs. The Strategy is linked to the Innovation Policy, which was submitted for a parliamentary review by the Government in October 2008.

Instead of specific measures, the Innovation Policy gives broader overall views, whereas the IPR strategy concentrates on more practical aspects.

Structurally, the IPR strategy’s objectives are divided into five sections, each of which contains 5 to 15 measures directed to develop IPR in that area. The sections are:
– Expertise
– Efficiency and clarity of rights
– Competition policy and the functionality of the IPR markets
– Functional and economic efficiency of the IPR system
– Actions related to the international and EU policies.

Lack of knowledge – a problem to be tackled
”For nearly every measure, a timetable and a responsible organization is set in the strategy. This makes the follow-up possible. Only in this way the IPR strategy will support the Innovation Policy”, says Rinkineva.

There is an evident need for education about IPRs not only in legal departments of the universities but also in economics and technology. Moreover, one crucial issue arose already during the preliminary work of the steering group: the lack of knowledge especially in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

In addition to increasing IPR education in universities, many of the measures are, therefore, aimed at better utilization of the existing knowledge resources, for example patent information and counseling the SMEs.

Systematic IPR research is needed in public sector
Also another shortcoming became evident: the need for continuous research of IPRs especially for the needs of the public sector.

”This role would suit the IPR University Center in the future”, Rinkineva is pondering.

A long discussed item is the IPR court. There have been two working groups in Finland on the issue. A broad consensus exists that there is a need for a special court where all IP matters should be concentrated.

During the preparation of the IPR strategy it became evident that the Finnish Market Court could well function as the special IP court, sufficient resources provided.

IP legislation should be revised
”The need to clarify at least parts of the Copyright Act and the Trademark Act became clear during the work”, sighs Rinkineva.
”There will definitely be working groups for revising certain sections of these legislations, hopefully also for unfair competition legislation.”

A Steering Group is proposed and it will have the responsibility of monitoring and supervising the implementation of the strategy. The Steering Group will submit an interim report about the progress in 2010. Also a special IPR Council, whose tasks include promoting networking among the parties in IPR sector would be set up.

See Mikko Huuskonen’s article in this same issue of IPRinfo (2/2009) p. 36 on the administration and the way the IPR strategy work was carried out:IPR Strategy of Finland – Protect and Play.