During her long career, Petronella Grahn, the fairytale artist behind the magical world of Pomenia, has realised that her most valuable assets are intellectual property rights. When an artist can retain the rights to own ideas with the help of IP registrations and well-thought-out contracts, even the grandest of visions can become reality.
2021 is proving to be a landmark year for Pomenia, and there is a lot of “magic fairydust” in the air. Pomenia is spreading its wings across the globe with an international media and production team and Kolster as its Finnish IPR and legal partner. Currently, Pomenia is being prepared for the big screen with an animated film and TV series for global audiences – and for taking over the world with its international POMENIA brand, fairytale characters and merchandise.
Petronella Grahn has more than 20 years of learning and insight into international business. While Pomenia is “a magic world where the impossible becomes possible and every adventure is a grand one,” when it comes to business, Grahn has learned to “swim with the sharks” and defend her rights to the results of her creative work. She has also realised how important it is to recognise own core areas of expertise – and then find the best team to help realise the business vision.
“I’ve always had a strong passion to bring the fairy dreamland I have created to be seen, heard, adventured and experienced as widely as possible. Realising this vision has taken a lot of perseverance and a great deal of faith in what I’ve wanted to achieve. And I also needed the right amount of luck in finding the best partners for Pomenia: an experienced international media team, led by the award-winning David ‘Dave’ Mousley – and Sanna Häikiö, a top-notch lawyer who excels in intellectual property rights and international contract law,” Petronella Grahn says.
Pomenia has already been able to soar in Grahn’s native Finland. In autumn 2020, the first part of the Pomenia trilogy was published in collaboration with Kumma-kustannus, a Finnish publisher of children’s literature. This release coincided with the publication of various pedagogical materials related to Petronella Grahn’s magical fairy dreamland: fairytale yoga and emotional adventure cards, as well as a board game. In addition, over 20 smaller Pomenia stories are awaiting publication.
"In the run-up to Christmas, two of my books managed to break into the top ten of the “What’s Finland Reading” bestseller list. They placed fifth and seventh, right after Mauri Kunnas, who is one of Finland’s most celebrated authors of children’s books. In addition, the first part of my trilogy sold more than the Finlandia Prize winner, so I’m pretty happy about that as well.”
Currently, a preparatory phase is underway for the animation production of Pomenia. In addition, negotiations on the translation rights to the books are ongoing.
“My best asset at the negotiation table is that I still own 100% of all IP rights to the fairy dreamland concept of Pomenia."
Petronella Grahn never intended to become a fairytale artist or entrepreneur. She studied to be a construction engineering supervisor, met her future husband and father of her six children – and began telling her own fairytale bedtime stories to her children every night. The result was Pomenia, a fairytale world of dreams and adventures whose characters and stories Grahn has illustrated and taled together with her children since 1997.
“I’ve always had an artistic and creative streak. I’ve been composing, playing music and drawing all my life, but my career as an entrepreneur was the result of pure chance. It all started with a dragon hat that I designed and sewed for my first-born son. Soon everyone was asking for one, and in the end I didn’t have enough time to sew them myself. That’s when I decided to launch my children’s clothing company.”
At best, Grahn’s children’s clothing collection, which was based on the characters from the fairy dreamland of Pomenia, was manufactured by nearly 80 Finnish subcontractors. At the beginning of the 2000s, Grahn’s online store Tinttu.com became one of Finland’s first major online textile industry stores. TINTTU was also one of the first Finnish children’s clothing brands at major international trade fairs, for example in Denmark, Germany, Russia and China. Demand exploded, and at the same time the experienced industrial sewers in Finland began to retire with no new experts to replace them.
“By 2010, I had already transferred all production to Asia. However, I still felt like I couldn’t keep up with the demand. The turning point was when I was sitting next to a busy street in China in 2012, watching the masses of people passing by, my two-week-old sixth child with me. I woke up to think: China manufactures products for the whole world. How can a small Finnish company ever compete with China in product sales and manufacturing?
Grahn then headed to the Canton Children’s Clothing Fair only to discover that Pomenia’s fairy dreamland characters had already been copied and printed on t-shirts by a local company. The copier had made a profit before Grahn was even aware of the copying. That was the moment when she decided to change course.
“I realised that the core of my expertise and future business was not in manufacturing dragon or troll hats or t-shirts, but in drawing the fairytale characters and creating the stories around them.”
When Grahn returned home, she began to think in earnest about how she could channel her key skills to something new and best bring the fairy dreamland of Pomenia to the children of the world. She sat on her living room floor and gathered every story and the collection of nearly 250 fairytale characters that she had created and drawn over the years.
“I put every story and character in a single binder. After that, I created a commercial fairy dreamland and business concept, the map of Pomenia, with the goal of reaching a worldwide audience.”
One of Pomenia’s most central characters is Scarytale, a kind-hearted dragon with golden wings. Scarytale’s challenge is that he doesn’t dare to fly: even the wings are so small that he doesn’t really reach to see them on his back. His friend, the Bug, decides to get a hot-air balloon to help his dragon friend overcome his fears and hone his flying skills. At first, Scarytale dares only to gently reach from the basket of his hot-air balloon towards a rock – until he notices that his wings can carry him, too. The moral of the story is that you can never truly know what you are capable of until you take a chance and try.
With a dash of Scarytale’s courage, Grahn decided to give up her children’s clothing line in 2016 and start something new.
“However, I didn't want to focus on just storybooks, as children today are more into video games than books. I love games, so I decided to create a mobile game.”
Grahn found an investor and game development company and, at first, the project progressed well. However, the development company ran into financial difficulties only a few weeks before the game’s release date, and the mobile game never saw the light of day. At first, Grahn felt as though the proverbial rug had been pulled from under her feet – but, in the end, she ended up creating something much bigger. All it took was perseverance and a touch of magic fairydust.
“I decided that I wouldn’t give up. I hunted for a new partner and toured video game fairs around the world. I sat at numerous negotiating tables in Sweden, Germany and the United States. In an instant, I learned a university degree’s worth of how the contractual world really works.”
And then, by chance, she found her big break. Grahn’s first investor happened to be the neighbour of David Mousley, a top producer. He had presented Grahn’s Pomenia concept to Mousley.
“The next thing I knew, I was in Manchester negotiating with Mousley’s team and other top international film producers who’ve been involved in the commercialisation of big stories like the Teletubbies, Bob the Builder, Star Wars and other success brands. It felt almost utopian.”
Long before Grahn sat at international negotiating tables, she had learned in her long career how important it is to take care of the protection of one’s special expertise. The TINTTU children's clothing collection was a college for copyright, trademarks, domain names, and the importance of good contracts with subcontractors and other partners.
“When I saw a Finnish-made copy of my TINTTU dragon hat, I realised that the most important things to protect even for a small company operating in the domestic market are the brand and the product names. All good and interesting ideas will be copied, and only the brand can help you stand out from the copycats. In addition to trademark registrations, it is important to reserve the domain name related to your brand.”
Grahn realised the importance of intellectual property rights in contracts when she had to think about how she could transfer her own design to subcontractors and other partners so that the rights to the results of the creative work will remain in her own hands.
“I’ve studied and learned through experience. I quickly understood the importance of non-disclosure agreements and competition restrictions when discussing your ideas with any potential partners, and that you should never give up your IP rights.”
Grahn says that while she learned to swim with the sharks, she also realised that in the world of international business, one needs professional legal help and reliable partners to ward off any would-be shark attacks.
When her mobile game plans fell through, Grahn had to fight for her IP rights to the Pomenia concept. One of the partners involved interpreted the terms of the cooperation agreement for his own benefit, and a dispute arose as to who owned the results of the creative work at the end of the project.
“I started to google for lawyers specialising in intellectual property rights and called several law firms, but it felt like their fees, attitude and IPR expertise didn’t match my expectations. But when I got to discuss my situation with Sanna Häikiö from Kolster, I knew straight away that she was the right lawyer for me.”
The contractual dispute was settled through negotiations and a conciliation agreement. The agreement also secured the retention of Pomenia's IP rights in Grahn's possession.
“My collaboration with Kolster began with the settlement of this contractual dispute, but our relationship has deepened and grown ever since. It’s clear to me that Kolster has the best networks and a great deal of expertise in IPR, contracts and licensing.”
When Grahn was formulating the business plan for her fairy dreamland of Pomenia, she read a great deal of biographies and brand stories to learn how other successful brands had grown their business globally. She studied the history of numerous well-known brands, such as Walt Disney, Abba, and Star Wars.
“For example, Star Wars made a fortune not from the film itself, but from its tie-in products. I realised that Pomenia’s story and brand needed to become known far and wide, but the revenue comes from license and merchandise agreements.”
Therefore, IP rights are critical: without them, there is really nothing to negotiate. The enthusiasm of any potential investors is also greatly influenced by how clear the IP rights are, how many chefs cook in the kitchen and how many hungry mouths are waiting to be fed.
“When I was negotiating with the British producer team, I was asked how large a share of the IP rights I still owned of the Pomenia concept. When I stated that I own 100% of everything, the team was surprised. According to them, usually at the stage when they are contacted, there is only about a third of the original IPR left.”
Mousley’s production team was also interested in hearing how the concept was born.
“I told them a little embarrassed that I had done things in the wrong order: I started with a children’s clothing collection. They said that it is precisely the reason why Pomenia is interesting: I have done everything differently than others. They are constantly offered fairy tales and stories around the world, but no one else has had the six children with whom the stories were born, nor the finished product world.”
The international production team is now working hard to make the trolls, fairies, dragons and other characters that inhabit the fairy dreamland of Pomenia known to a global audience. The team has also been joined by the award-winning Finnish animation studio Anima and producer Antti Haikala, who are known, among others, as the creators of the new Moominvalley series.
Currently, Pomenia is undergoing its mobilisation phase, where the sales potential of the entire brand is being refined with the help of professional teams. All contents and illustrations have been documented, IP assets mapped, trademark registrations verified, and all agreements reviewed. The brand has been compared and contrasted to other fairytale brands around the world, and the functionality and suitability of its stories have been assessed in different cultures.
“Sanna Häikiö is Pomenia’s lawyer in all international agreements to ensure that the interests of Pomenia are secured. Together with the British team, we have created an investment instrument and contractual portfolio, with which we will start conquering the world.”
Grahn’s fairy dreamland of Pomenia is more than a fun adventure. It teaches children the skills they need in their lives: courage, perseverance, creativity, imagination, joy and love. It helps them learn to accept diversity in themselves and others, to feel empathy, to respect nature, to cope with and surmount difficulties, and to create something new.
“My vision for Pomenia is to make it into a global brand. The world needs new fairytales, and I feel that when it comes to children’s culture, Finland could be known for more than just the Moomins. We’re currently honing our international sales, and we are doing it with the best experts in their fields – Kolster is one of those experts.”
The kind-hearted dragon Scarytale has jumped off the edge of the basket of his hot-air balloon and is about to take flight.
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