September 17, 2018
Jani Kaulo’s job is to run Finland’s only IP-related China Desk at Kolster. It opens doors to China, helping European companies to make efficient use of their intellectual property in the market.
The China bug bit me during a holiday in Beijing in 1999, when I was a freshman at the university. The Chinese culture, history and language made such an impression on me that I chose the Chinese language and political history as my minors at the University of Turku, where I majored in law. In addition, I studied at the Fudan and Shanghai Universities in Shanghai, as well as the University of Stockholm, which offered better opportunities for learning Chinese.
I was particularly interested in the quick development and dynamism of China. I also found all cultural aspects of the country fascinating, from its history and political development to its cuisine.
After graduation, my first places of work were law firms where I was able to focus on intellectual property rights, i.e., IPR, and specialise in counterfeit product cases.
Asia was still at the back of my mind, and I was planning to go there again and stay for a longer period. Five years after graduation, in 2010, I started studies in an English MBA programme in Vietnam. At the same time, I was taking the first steps with my own business, helping Finnish companies in the Vietnamese market: consulting them on opportunities in Vietnam, helping them find business partners and assisting them with legal and cultural matters.
I spent three wonderful years in Vietnam. In late 2012, I moved back to Finland for family reasons and started working as a trademark lawyer at Kolster.
I spend more than half of my time working on China-related IP cases or handling IP matters for Chinese companies operating in Europe. In addition, I handle trademark cases within the European Union. Kolster has provided me with a great opportunity, both to work as a trademark lawyer and to expand our business operations in the Chinese market. Soon after I started work at Kolster, in late 2013, we founded Kolster China Desk. In addition to myself, the team includes a Chinese IP specialist, patent attorneys specialising in various technological fields, and another lawyer.
Kolster China Desk understands local practices and laws in China, and operates in the Chinese language. We help startups, SMEs and large companies alike to make use of and protect their intellectual property rights in China.
The China Trademark Association, CTA, invited Kolster to become its council member – and its only non-Chinese council member – in 2017. The membership is useful in building a network in China. We can, for example, contact trademark authorities on high levels to solve challenging cases in China for our clients.
China has plenty of potential, because it is already a financial superpower and Chinese companies are now expanding their operations abroad. I believe that China will one day yield the greatest financial power in the world.
In addition to huge potential, working with the Chinese has its challenges from Western perspective. Both companies and people act very differently from their European counterparts. We cannot collaborate by teaching the Chinese how we do things; we have to adapt to their ways of behaving
One of the big differences is that the Chinese buy services from their friends – people they know. In business operations, too, relationships are forged between people, not companies. Therefore a company aiming at the Chinese market has to task a person with building a network based on personal relationships. And that takes time.
When communicating with the Chinese, I always try to see beyond their words. What do they really want to say, and what is their goal? Their message may not be clear right away because communication is not as forthright as it is with Europeans or Americans. The Chinese think and act strategically, and they are great negotiators. If you don’t know how to haggle, for example, then you don’t know how to negotiate and you are not a skilful businessperson.
In my work, I mainly handle projects related to brand protection. In addition, I am in charge of the development of Kolster China Desk. I visit China several times a year, meeting local partner companies and clients, attending IP conferences and giving lectures. Conferences are opportunities for forging new contacts and managing relations. I know some Chinese, but the conversations are carried out in English. I often travel with our Chinese IP specialist.
I act as a link between the client and the Chinese representative. Between meetings, due to the time difference and other things, we communicate mainly by e-mail. When I understand both parties, I am best able to advise the client.
My key message is that a company’s IP registration matters should be dealt with in good time. When a European company wishes to expand to China, for example, the process is straightforward and a single application goes a long way. Even so, it may take several years to register a trademark, because the processing times with authorities in China are long. And this alone is not enough. Before taking protective measures, the company should have some idea of which IP rights will be protected, why, and how they will be utilised and defended, should the need arise.
Many people have an outdated idea of what the IP situation in China is like. The notion is strong that there is no point in companies protecting anything because registrations provide no basis for any action anyway. In reality, the IP legislation in China is rather good and modern, and there are even courts which specialise in IP cases. The practices and interpretation of the law are also improving constantly. Problems occur mainly on the local level in smaller cities, where protectionism is highlighted.
I am also in charge of the largest and most experienced anti-counterfeit product practice in Finland. We have as clients over 220 global brand owners, whom we represent in counterfeit matters. Our experience is accumulated primarily in situations where counterfeit products are sold online, for example, or they are found at customs.
Many European companies still have plenty of room for improvement in IP matters. Few have an IP strategy that supports their business strategy and helps them view the protection of intellectual property rights as a business investment rather than an expense.
Kolster is one of the most experienced IP specialists in Europe. We offer a one-stop-shop solution for all IP services for protecting, exploiting and defending your inventions, designs and brands.