The IPR Strategy of Finland: Protect and Play

(IPRinfo 2/2009)

Mikko Huuskonen
LL.D. Counsellor, Ministry of Employment and the Economy
Secretary General of the IPR Strategy Steering Group

In 2007, the Government of Finland decided that a national IPR strategy should be drawn up in order to develop this field, particularly from the viewpoint of SMEs.

The strategy was called for to support the national innovation strategy, which was formulated at the same time. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, has borne principal responsibility for the national IPR strategy.

Why an IPR strategy? The time is right for a concise account of the field of intellectual property rights. Different areas of IPR have developed during decades or even centuries rather independently but they form an area of common legal and economic features. Companies face copyright, patent, trademark and model rights often in their normal business context. It makes sense to look at IPR in toto.

A steering group of leading Finnish IPR experts was appointed to support the work. It was active from late 2007 until the end of September 2008, convening nine times. Two enterprise surveys were conducted alongside an in-depth interview with 25 Finnish enterprises.

The project group that coordinated the working group’s work visited the EU and the OECD. The steering group consulted a fairly large number of experts. In connection with the work, the IPR University Center prepared a background report on the infrastructure of the Finnish IPR sector.

Megatrends affect IPR environment
On the basis of this work, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, produced in January 2009 a report for the Government to build the actual strategy on. According to the report’s vision, in 2015 Finland will have an IPR environment that efficiently supports innovation activity and creative work.

The report identifies four major influences or megatrends affecting the IPR sector: globalization, digitalization, politicization and the expansion of the IPR sector. The steering group defined the focal areas where policy action is needed as follows: expertise, the efficiency and clarity of rights, competition policy and the functioning of the IPR markets, and the functional and economic efficiency of the system.

In addition, Finland’s EU objectives were discussed. The report, prepared by civil servants, contains a summary of the key issues and elements of the IPR sector handled by the steering group, for the purpose of forming a preliminary overview of the matter.

In March, the Government will receive a proposal for Government Resolution on IPR strategy. After the Resolution is made, the Strategy will be implemented.

From a Rights-Based Approach towards a Dynamic one
A strategy process driven by state administration does not raise expectations of novelty or innovativeness, as a plethora of mixed interests tends to deep-freeze attempts at original thought.

This problem was tackled right from the beginning by having scenario-discussions with the working group; controversial discussions were not avoided but provoked. The IPR field was not approached by the traditional, rights-based approach, but focused on the business activities to see where the actual problems are.

The rights-based approach would also be rather narrow in scope as Finland is tied to international arrangements and to the EU legislation, which leave only a limited possibility to radical legislative reforms. Self-evidently, having emphasis only on a rights-approach would also overlook the fact that the actual economic value lies, not in the IPR itself, but in the skilful use of the IPR in business.

The IPR may protect assets of high value or of no value at all, which emphasizes the need to include business dynamics in the approach.

Open innovation, trade secrets and sharing knowledge
This starting point opened a new way of looking at the IPR scenery. Companies may be handicapped in many ways by their lack of knowledge of the IPR system, but many of them apply sophisticated and novel strategies in the IPR field.

There seems to be market behaviour that relies on exclusive rights with expectations of high yield from IPR, but also strategies based on dissemination and sharing knowledge to partners (open innovation) with IPR as a facilitator for other businesses. Early release of information may prevent competitors from patenting and give lead-time advantage. Companies may apply non-transparent methods of operation or rely on extensive non-disclosure arrangements.

Importantly, many Finnish companies operate internationally already in their SME-phase. A giant amount of the Finnish companies’ agreements are international, mainly written in English and subject to various jurisdictions.

Protect and Play
These observations require a firm resolution to take into account the reality of the IPR business. This requires that our IPR education system has the right emphasis: we must prepare and provide our young lawyers, economists and engineers with not only legal knowledge, but also with an understanding of the basics of technical and economic issues of IPR business.
We need people able to manage IPRs internationally. Good functioning of the market requires also a firm competition law aspect. The IPR administration must operate on the basis of a common strategy.

Tradition calls to say: protect your rights. In addition to that we say: learn to play the IPR game.



The Government’s Resolution for a strategy concerning intellectual property rights (26 March 2009), i.e. the IPR Strategy of Finland

The National IPR Strategy of Finland in Finnish can be found on the web site of the Government: ”Valtioneuvoston periaatepäätös kansallisesta aineettomien oikeuksien strategiasta 26.3.2009”:

The Report IPR tehokkaaseen käyttöön! Aineksia teollis- ja tekijänoikeuksien strategiaan Työ- ja elinkeinoministeriön julkaisuja, Konserni 37/2008. 49sivua. ISBN (pdf) 978-952-227-128-0; printed 978-952-227-127-3
is available on the web site of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. The report is in Finnish only.

Several states and organizations have drafted an IPR strategy for their own purposes. On the Finnish web site of IPR University Center you will find a collection of links to national or organizational IPR strategies. The Institute has also listed literature and statistics on this subject with possible links to relevant web sites. (The main page is in Finnish, but you can also start on the English page