IPR Research in Finland – New Dissertations are On the Way

(IPRinfo 2/2009)

Päivi Helander

IPR awareness in Finland has been rising during the past ten years.

Until 2000, there had only been about one dissertation per decade in Finnish universities concerning intellectual property issues (IPR). There was no coordination between possible IPR-related research projects nor networks combining researchers of economics, technology and law whose subjects dealt with intellectual property.

Thanks to the risen general awareness, better funding of relevant research projects and the establishment of IPR University Center in 1999, the situation has gradually improved during the past ten years.

The tasks of the new Institute were defined as coordinating and promoting the education of and the research into intellectual property law. In order to increase the quantity and to safeguard the quality of IP related doctoral dissertations, IPR University Center has striven towards projects and networks of researchers on a multi-disciplinary basis.

Cooperation between universities enables papers with a wider scope
For a researcher, a graduate school is a good way to prepare a dissertation: he/she is offered courses and supervision on a regular basis. Also, he is obliged to communicate, defend and discuss his ideas and viewpoints with his fellow scholars. Naturally, brilliant papers can be accomplished in individual programmes, too.

Academic cooperation between different universities expands the scopes of papers. This is particularly useful in IP research, which should comprise not only legal, but also economic, technical and sociological approaches to intellectual property issues.

In 2007, IPR University Center started its own four-year graduate school INNOCENT (Innovation Incentives and the Regulatory Infrastructure) funded mainly by the Academy of Finland.

Other PhD students from different Finnish universities are welcome to participate in many courses, seminars and visits by INNOCENT. There is also cooperation e.g. in form of researcher exchange with the foreign partner universities.

IPR awareness and the number of theses gradually rising
Widely seen, there have been about 30 IPR-related doctoral papers in Finland during the past 10 years.

Unfortunately, dissertations in economics, managing and marketing still seldom mention any connection to commercial law and e.g. the protection of trade marks. Also, in engineering and computer sciences the rising awareness in IPR has gradually produced courses and papers at least taking intellectual properties into account. Most dissertations in media topics or arts, like design, usually do not handle IPRs at all.

The value of IPR nowadays should show in the organisational and national accounts. At the university level, the evaluation of intellectual capital has been studied mainly in departments of economics and industrial engineering and management. Also, economic and statistical research institutions have looked into these issues.

During the past few years, research projects have been started in universities on e.g. open access and communication. As this kind of projects have natural connections to IPR issues, also more cooperation between legal, economic and technological projects would be fruitful.

Research projects outside / in cooperation with universities
Research is, of course, carried out outside academic institutions. ETLA, the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, has recently focused on analysing factors that foster innovation and facilitate adoption of new technology thereby promoting the development of a knowledge economy.

ETLA’s research projects involve both post-doctoral and graduate researchers, whose work often result in a dissertation. ETLA also cooperates with both domestic and foreign universities as well as with international institutions like World Bank.
Measuring has been the focus of the Performance management team at the Tampere University of Technology. The group studies the methods for organizations’ business performance management together with partners in the business world.
One of the main interest areas is intellectual capital and productivity. Five dissertations have been finished in connection of its projects since its establishment in 1999.

Also, a number of IPR books resulting from various projects – including under-graduate studies – have been published in the past years, mostly article collections.

Copyright is the most popular subject
More than half of recent doctoral papers in Finland concentrate on copyright. One reason, obviously, is the huge change in contents distribution brought by new technology.

Some theses illustrate the impact of technology on copyright legislation, some analyse the legal situation in the Internet era or digital rights management, others promote more liberal approaches like open source and open access.

Of all IPRs, patents are the easiest to measure with quantitative criteria. The numbers of applications, granted patents and even their value in the portfolios of an enterprise can be measured more easily than other intangible assets.

In ETLA, they have studied e.g. if valuable patents attract purchase offers for the company. The National Bureau of Patents and Registration (NBPR) has participated in a research project conducted by VTT concerning the use and significance of patent information as well as in surveys on the IPR awareness of SMEs, commissioned by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

Dissertations on IPR borderlines coming in next years
However, the patent theme has not attracted many doctoral students until recently: one INNOCENT researcher examines nanotechnology, another software patents and a third biotechnology issues.

There are also dissertations on the way concerning the borderlines of IPRs and competition law, of trade mark law with copyright or domain names and of merchandising questions.

A list of all dissertations in Finland on IPR issues (known to IPR University Center) will be published on the web site of the Institute (Information Services / Library).