China  ⋅   IP strategy  ⋅   people

IP Specialist building bridges between China and Finland


September 24, 2018

For China Desk IP Specialist and Business Development Manager Zhangping Wu, challenges are only exciting opportunities, and Finnish “sisu” makes all the difference. China is the future of the IPR field, but the road to success requires unyielding effort and a dedicated mediator.

I’ve turned into a proper Finn

There are several places I call home. I was brought up in a small city near Guangzhou in South China and studied in Beijing, before moving to Finland a decade ago. Admittedly, my first two years here were tough. It was lonely settling into a completely different environment and language. I was used to living in a big city in Beijing, with masses of people constantly surrounding me. Suddenly there was all this silence, and I had to eat breakfast with the lights on because of the darkness.

I feel like I’m well immersed in the Finnish culture. I’m very talkative even for a Chinese person, but here I’ve learned to enjoy silence as well. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable anymore. Sometimes, when meeting new people who are making all the small talk, I question whether I’m actually the Finn and they the Chinese ones.

I don’t have to choose – my job has it all

My current work as an IP specialist at the China Desk combines several aspects, which is why I’m so passionate about it. I don’t have to choose between the two countries either, since I get to travel to China several times a year while still living in Finland.

I help our attorneys with IP searches and analyses in China, and give them advice on cultural issues. I contact Chinese agencies and potential new partners. I also represent Kolster China Desk in e.g. meetings and seminars in Finland and China alike. PR activities are vital to making Kolster better known and recognized by the Chinese authorities.

Nowadays, even small and medium sized Chinese companies are encouraged to go to Europe, which is why IPR and the entire legal side have become key issues. We want to be the first company that comes to mind when help is needed. For example, Kolster is now the top recommended law firm on the official website of the Chinese Embassy.

I maintain a balance between two cultures

I don’t feel that there is a huge gap between the Finnish and the Chinese anymore, because the younger Chinese generations are increasingly Western-minded and share similar, Western values. English is taught from primary school and people are encouraged to discover the world outside China.

Our partners’ backgrounds and age group have a huge impact on the working culture: younger Chinese generations can be even more straightforward than Finns! The generations older than my parents are the ones whose background make them exceedingly traditional – they won’t say anything directly.

Rather than the size of a company, the Chinese value trustworthiness and reputation above all. A fundamental factor in creating a lasting business relationship is patience. Trust cannot be built in a heartbeat, nor can it be formed between two faceless corporations. Meetings, reciprocity in all actions, and time invested in these are invaluable. Building and maintaining trust with several Chinese companies is evidence of the traits which Chinese companies hold in high esteem.

China is the future

The central government in China has taken many measures to promote the importance of IP and taking business abroad. For example, the official cost of filing a trademark application has been reduced by half. Companies also receive public funds for filing patent applications, especially in the Guangdong Province.

Chinese firms have grown increasingly business-minded. Previously traditional IP firms have started to regard the field as a bustling ecosystem and commercialize IPRs rather than just helping companies with filing patents and litigation.

We are getting more and more messages from Chinese companies that want to establish operations in Finland. For them too, the trend is clear. It’s no longer sufficient to have business only within one’s home country. Establishing a company in Europe is considered fashionable.

Kolster’s greatest competition is not other Finnish IP companies, but other European countries. Countries like Germany and Spain used to be better known in China, but vigorous promotion of Finland has led to a change in this. The shift can even be seen in tourism: a growing number of Chinese people come to Finland for vacations. There is curiosity about Finland.

Getting far and going further

A common mistake for Western companies going to China is to bite off more they can chew. A company should start from a certain field or sector, based on their expertise and available resources. However, a fairly large number of companies try to take on China as a whole. Failure to localize leads to loss of focus, and little by little these companies become completely lost.

I’m quite happy with all of Kolster’s accomplishments in China. This is due to the entire China Desk team, the board, and the management. Our CEO is very supportive of ideas and willing to try them out, which is another factor in what we’ve established in China.

Our full membership of the China Trademark Association (CTA) and cooperation with the CTA illustrates our achievements in China. We became the only foreign IP agency to be accepted as a full council member of the association last year. Kolster has been rewarded for its contributions to international exchanges and communications on China trademark matters. The Secretary General and President, the leader of the CTA, is visiting Finland this year with a group of Directors from Chinese IP firms, which signifies trust and appreciation of us.

By staff size, Kolster is relatively small compared to Chinese agencies. However, we are huge in terms of our history and experience. When meeting leaders of Chinese IP agencies, I constantly hear how appreciated and valued we really are. They are impressed by our expertise, our generations-long family history, the quality of our work, and the number of our Chinese partnerships, which is another indicator of our reputation. We are one of the oldest and most experienced IP law firms in Europe, with stable Chinese partners.

Rather than looking back, I want to focus on the future

I’d like to further develop myself in this field. I really enjoy promoting Finland and I see lots of potential for both Finnish and Chinese corporations and their growth. I see myself being one of the links between the two countries, promoting such development. And promoting Kolster.

Our reputation and expertise are the indispensable basis of everything we do in China. Despite this, the Chinese authorities don’t usually say yes to anything immediately, which sometimes makes me feel a little disappointed and challenged. What I need then is Finnish “sisu”: tenacity, resilience, determination. This keeps me going.

Contact us

Zhangping Wu
+358 40 7073877