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150 Years of Patent Protection – This is Where it All Began


Rudolf Kolster's initial patent application in 1874 served the paper industry. His legacy—strong technical and legal expertise—remains at the core of the family business even today. Kolster has protected Finnish innovations for 150 years.

Over 58,000. This is the total number of patent applications filed by Kolster's patent attorneys in Finland on behalf of their clients since October 1958. Throughout the 150-year history of the company, the total number is significantly higher, but information about the agent before 1958 is not available in the Patent and Registration Office's registry.

Kolster is Finland's oldest continuously operating patent agency. The story began in 1874 when engineer Rudolf Kolster, who had moved from Germany to Finland, worked as a patent agent for the first time. He filed a patent application on behalf of English inventors George Sinclair and John Nicolin. Their invention, related to the treatment of wood fiber in paper manufacturing, was granted Finland's 129th patent in history.

Just as in the past, the work of a patent attorney today combines strong technical and legal expertise with commercial understanding. The purpose of a patent is to support business operations.

"A patent attorney must understand the technology on which the invention is based. Rudolf Kolster was a prime example of this: he had a broad understanding of the technology of his time. Nowadays, the need for expertise only continues to grow. Our diverse team of patent attorneys ensures that we have an expert in every technological field," says Ossi Huhtanen, Partner at Kolster and a European patent attorney.

Exclusive Rights for 20 Years for Device Manufacturing

The year 1874 is significant because in the same year, Rudolf Kolster founded his company, Kolster. He began working as a patent agent alongside his teaching position at the Technical University and engineering work.

At the time of the first patent application, several factory projects and a considerable amount of wood for raw material were underway in Finland.

"The technology related to paper manufacturing became more prevalent in the late 1800s. The inventors probably saw Finland as a favorable market for their new invention and therefore wanted to protect their invention here," explains Huhtanen.

Officially, Kolster's first patent was a privilege granted by the autonomous Finnish Senate. The applicant received a 20-year exclusive right to manufacture a device in Finland that converts wood fibers into paper pulp. Finland's first patent law was enacted only in 1898.

In the early days of the company, a couple of patent applications arrived annually. By 1899, there were already 77 applications, primarily from the metal, engineering, and wood processing industries. Most of the applications handled by Rudolf Kolster came from abroad. This was facilitated by relationships formed during his teaching career and his ties to his former homeland, Germany.

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Patents were described with texts and drawings in paper form already in the 1800s.

Rudolf Kolster - A Key Developer in the Patent Field

The principles of patenting developed into practices similar to today's standards in the 1800s. Patents were handwritten, with novelty requirements, and patent drawings and models were available for everyone to see. All Finnish patents from the early days are digitized and available in the Espacenet database.

Rudolf Kolster significantly influenced the development of the patent field in Finland. He served as an expert in patent regulations in the Senate and was involved in preparing new patent legislation in Finland. He advised patent authorities on novelty searches, participated in organizations, wrote for journals, and traveled to foreign events and gatherings in the field.

Towards the end of the century, Rudolf had his son Friedrich to assist him and continue his work. Kolster has remained a family business for five generations.

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Rudolf Kolster, founder of Kolster, engineer.

International Pioneer in the Field

Strong internationality and a desire to advance the field are at the core of the family business even today. Kolster, for instance, is a pioneer in the IP industry in the adoption and development of electronic application systems in collaboration with patent offices. In 2001, Kolster was the first in the field to submit an electronic application to the Finnish Patent and Registration Office.

Patent attorneys have always been a crucial support for inventors. They've helped to define and illustrate ideas and determine the nature of the invention. Today, the work also emphasizes anticipating and assessing potential risks.

"We assist our clients in getting the best possible benefit from commercializing their innovations. Any invention made in any industry should be protected if it is significant for business. Our international network of trusted partners ensures a smooth process for patent applications worldwide," says Huhtanen.


Ossi Huhtanen
Partner, European Patent Attorney
+358 50 524 2418