20th December, 2018
Maria Ojala joined Kolster as an IP lawyer immediately after her university studies. She specialises in matters concerning trademark infringements and unfair competition, as well as marketing law
My interest in intellectual property rights started in my student days. I studied law first at the Vaasa bilingual unit of the University of Helsinki, and, the master’s degree, in Helsinki. My interest in trademark issues grew in the first year of studying, and a work career in trademarks was an easy choice for me.
I joined Kolster as an IP lawyer right after my studies in the spring of 2016. I had done some background work on companies in the field and found Kolster interesting both as concerns its expertise and values.
In my work, I have had the opportunity for self-development. For example, I have completed, while working, my Master of Economic Sciences studies at the IP Law Master’s Degree Program of Hanken and the Authorized Trademark Attorney degree by the Industrial Property Attorney Board. With it I received the European Trademark and Design Attorney competence.
Both my master theses relate to trademarks. In my LL.M thesis, I discussed the protection of well-known trademarks and limits of the scope of protection, and in the M.Sc thesis advertising function of trademarks.
Both theses have been useful to me in my work at Kolster. The scope of protection of trademarks and certain limitations of the protection are essential and important questions that I deal with almost daily.
I specialise in matters concerning trademark infringements and unfair competition, as well as marketing law. These subject matters have been a natural choice due to my own interest and studies. They are associated with a lot of interesting questions and determination of boundaries, and they also have relevance to the practical operations of companies.
I deal with a lot of matters concerning infringements and counterfeit products of our Finnish and foreign clients by helping them defend their trademarks.
I feel privileged having the chance to work with very different companies, sectors, and products. I want to help our customers protect and defend their trademarks and thus help them succeed.
Infringements and hijacks
Right now, I’m working on an infringement case of a trademark. A Finnish company had been using the logo of our foreign client without a permission and registered a domain name infringing the client’s trademark. I’m also working on a case where the trademark of a Finnish company was hijacked on the Chinese market. This case, too, was solved in our client’s favour.
In an infringement of a trademark, we first check the scope of protection of our client’s trademark. Then we ponder the various courses of action and give our recommendation on how to proceed.
In most cases we send a letter to the party infringing a trademark, in which we tell about the trademark rights of our client and express our demands. Such a demand may be, for example, to remove a logo being used without authorization from a website or marketing material. The counterparty also needs to sign a commitment letter whereby it commits itself, under the threat of a contractual penalty, to not infringing anew the intellectual property rights of our clients.
The infringements of trademarks are not always intentional, but may result from a lack of information, or negligence. For example, companies selling spare parts for cars or providing car service may by mistake use logos of car brands on their websites even if they have no permission to do so.
I hope that in the future awareness of the benefits of intellectual property rights sees a further increase also in micro, small, and medium-sized companies, and that the rights are understood to be an investment and indispensable asset, not a cost.
When competition becomes more fierce regardless of the field, the significance of the brand is indispensable. That is why its protection and defence is so important.
In a specialist work, continuous self-development is important as is to closely follow the case law, for example.
Every spring I attend the annual meeting in Amsterdam of REACT, the leading international organisation in the fight against counterfeit goods, and every spring the conference of MARQUES, the European association representing the interests of brand owners. My international network has grown in the conferences and covers many countries all over the world.
At best, trademarks are the crown jewels of companies, so it is important for companies to look after them and to defend their rights more than now and more boldly. The recognizability, value, and image of the brand will suffer, if the competitors are able to make regular use of the trademarks without consequences.
Building a successive brand requires major investment. For this input to not go down the drain, defending trademarks is vital. As business operations grow and expand, trademark protection also needs to be updated when, for example, retailing extends to new countries. In addition to trademarks, it is a good idea to consider design protection, because design rights are a good alternative to support a trademark.
Furthermore, prohibiting unfair competition is an essential part of defending a brand. Examples of unfair competition include reputation parasitism, slavish imitation or comparative advertising which is not in accordance with legal requirements.
It is also worthwhile to take into consideration social media, which has brought new opportunities as well as challenges to company marketing. Nowadays, the very popular social media influencer marketing is important to implement so that subliminal advertising is avoided.
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.