Towards a national IPR strategy. Editorial

LehtiarkistoIPRinfo_1-2008 Pääkirjoitus 2.6.2008

(IPRinfo 1/2008)

Marja-Leena Mansala

In the current government programme of Finland, intellectual property rights are mentioned over 30 times in various contexts. The most comprehensive IPR objective in this governmental action plan is to create an IP strategy for the national intellectual property rights system. Among other things, the IP strategy should also provide tools and a framework for the innovation strategy, another important development project included in the government programme.

In November 2007, a broad-based committee to plan and prepare the IP strategy was appointed by the Minister of Trade and Industry (since 1.1.2008 the Minister of Employment and the Economy). The members of the steering group represent both business world and public bodies. I was selected as a permanent expert of the group. IPR University Center will be involved in the work e.g. in connection with surveys and research as well as collecting background material.

In addition to legislative considerations, the steering group should also define Finland’s objectives for developing the IP policy of the European Union. Legislation and policies, however, are useless without their appropriate implementation in practice and interpretation in dispute situations.

Therefore, harmonised interpretation of the IPR legislation all over the EU as well as on the international level is one of the key issues for those using IPR tools. For companies, particularly for SMEs, the enforcement of IP rights can be a question of life and death.

Improving the efficiency in court processing of IP issues is, indeed, included in the government programme. This will be carried out by assigning IP cases to a specialist court with adequate resources. Quantitative increase is, nevertheless, not enough. In order to guarantee legal certainty for enterprises defending their intellectual property rights, the court will need judges specialised in IPR, more understanding of business and more staff able to communicate in Finnish, Swedish and English.

These demands put pressure also on those who are advising companies. Furthermore, other actors in IP field, such as inventors, copyright holders, brand builders etc, are still today too little aware of the possibilities and traps of the IP system. However, even crucial information does not reach many of them if it is not offered in their own language.

Constant education is needed both in the public and the private sectors. A system of exams and degrees with exact criteria to prove IPR expertise should be created. The proven experts could then be entered in a register, which would be at the disposal of everyone interested.

The national possibilities to create original solutions are, naturally, restricted, due to international commitments. As a member state of the EU and a party of international treaties, Finland cannot ignore the legislative work in the European Union nor the international development, and invent separate national solutions.

In spite of the limited scope of action, creating and carrying out a national IP strategy is a notable exercise. Looking for benchmarking, we did not find many national IPR strategies in the world. Finland is thus in the avant-garde, hoping that the example of this small country will be followed by others.

The Government Programme is an Action Plan agreed by the parties represented in the Government, which is presently (since 2007) Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen’s second Cabinet