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IPR expert can see to the core of companies


October 7, 2019

You cannot graduate as an IPR expert straight out of school. Experience is essential to understanding the customer. Studying provides a good foundation, but Senior IPR Business Manager Timo Joutsenoja knows that success requires rolling up your sleeves and gaining experience on the field.

The same solutions do not suit different companies. This often surprises customers as well. When a successful company explains how its IPR issues are handled, it is easy to get tempted to do the same thing. However, it would be insane to emulate, for example, Nokia, which is operating in a completely different league from other Finnish companies and basically lives on IPR.

Different companies have different needs that depend on the industry, their stage on the growth curve and whether the company is planning to go international or make radical changes, such as eliminating an old product and replacing it with a new one.

In our meetings, I listen out for customers’ potential needs and tell them about IPR services that suit them specifically. This often opens the customers’ eyes. They may say that they need a patent, but discussion reveals that they first need an IPR strategy. Or that they really do need a patent, but not exactly on what they had in mind. It is rewarding to note that a customer has received useful information from me to help them avoid any missteps.

It is essential for my work to follow developments in the IPR world and continuously update my IPR knowledge. If I answer a customer’s question on the importance of patenting in China based on information from years ago, the answer will be completely different from the current situation. 

“The IPR needs of start-ups are completely different from others”

Large companies often have an established IPR partner, but most new companies start out with a clean slate with regard to their IPR issues. That is why start-ups, in particular, are natural new customers for us.

The IPR and business strategies of start-ups differ significantly from large companies. They tend to be seeking entirely new products, markets and rapid growth, so the motivations for protecting inventions are different. Start-ups want to show investors that they have exclusive rights to their technology and that their investment is thus protected. Start-ups are also often preparing for the sale of their company or technology, which requires IPR to be packaged for sale.

Large companies, in turn, are often preparing for conflict with other big operators or want to keep small players from sharing the pie. They watch their turf carefully and a patent portfolio is helpful in disputes. As a result, their operations are established and the companies have an IPR strategy indicating where to invest, how much and why. Start-ups often lack both strategy and understanding of how much is a lot. They might raise EUR 1 million of capital funding for the development of technology, but still think that spending twenty or thirty thousand on protecting it is too much.

On the other hand, not all companies have their own technology to protect. Their focus may be on branding or software protection instead of patenting. That is why, as a provider of IPR services, I have to look at what customer can protect, what is worth protecting and what the business environment of each customer is.

A start-up fast onto the market and growing in value? These are our services.

Clear changes and developments are also evident in the IPR field. Especially for large companies, it is typical to protect a few of the results of their own product development and leave the patents hidden in a desk drawer. Now, almost every industry thinks of IPR as a portfolio instead of individual patents, and how it benefits the business: how to use it to gain competitive advantage, prepare for conflicts and reap the benefits of product development more broadly through licensing. If a company invests millions in product development and does not end up directly using the results in-house, well-protected IPR is a excellent tool to recoup the money invested.

“We help Russian companies globalise”

In the early summer, Kolster opened a representative office in Russia. Russian companies are mainly focused on the domestic market and typically already have a local partner who handles their patent and IPR issues in Russia. This is reflected in the companies’ patent portfolios: patents have only been applied for in Russia. That is why our services to them are specifically related to venturing abroad. We assist Russian companies with international protection, contractual matters, negotiations and legal services.

The internationalisation of Russian companies is not hindered by distances or visa practices, but by the companies’ own will. They must cross the threshold abroad instead of just planning on it. For massive Russian companies, for example, foreign customers are the only way to expand further. We are opening the door to European and Chinese markets for Russian companies.

Kolster Russia Desk is your IPR gateway to Russia.

“I familiarised myself with patents for a job interview”

My background is in physics. I graduated as a Master of Science (Engineering) from the Tampere University of Technology and my doctoral thesis was on optical measuring instruments and measurement in combustion processes. However, my transition to the IPR sector was not entirely random. The first time I read basics of patents was when I was preparing for a job interview with the forest industry company UPM in 2002. Since then, IPR has been part of my job description at both UPM and later at VTT.

I had been working with Finnish patent agencies for over 15 years when I wanted to try something new. Even back then, Kolster already had a good reputation and an exceptionally extensive service offering. That is why I contacted Kolster’s CEO Timo Helosuo and asked what I could do for Kolster. It turned out to be a lot.

“The most challenging thing is sealing the deal”

My job description at Kolster is constantly evolving, but right now my main focus is on sales and new customer acquisition. I procure commissions with new partners for Kolster or present to our customers services that they are not yet familiar with. I am also constantly refining our service offering by generating ideas of new services and looking for areas that could still be developed.

Networking in its various forms is also an important part of my job. For example, by organising training sessions, we can talk to potential new customers and may find new partners. Writing offers is also part of my routine.

The most challenging part of any sale is sealing the deal. It is easier to convince people of the necessity of IPR than to get them to sign papers. It can also be challenging to contact customers for sales purposes without them considering it intrusive.

“I am a do-it-yourself man even though it takes time”

My hobby is presently mainly participating my children’s hobbies, i.e. alpine skiing related sports club activities. I have gradually moved from the city to the countryside, first from the Tampere city centre to a small block of flats in Pispala. Later we found a century-old detached house there that we renovated with respect to traditions. After that came across moving to Savonia and we wanted to find something completely different. The closest neighbours are no longer right next to our walls but on the other side of the forest, out of our sight. Now there are plenty of construction and gardening projects lined up as we have three hectares of land. I do everything myself as far as possible, even if it takes longer than a professional. This summer, I built a 25-step stairs from the house to the sauna by the lake, and I repaired a dock that had collapsed due to heavy snow last winter.

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