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Life without IP rights – like in the Wild West?


July 15, 2019

Bloody price competition, production relocating to Asia and product development in distress. Society without intellectual property rights would be the Wild West with Finland among the losers, writes Kolster’s European Patent Attorney Sini-Maaria Mikkilä.

It is said that a product is good if someone wants to copy it. However, it is possible to protect your intellectual property (IP) rights. That is fortunate as without patents, design rights and trademarks, the law of the jungle where the strongest always wins would prevail in the business world.

“Only the quick survive”

Intellectual property rights are the sheriffs of companies’ creative work. Without IP rights, speed and price competition would be the deciding factors on the market. Bloody price competition would lead to the first one to introduce a product or service to the market dominating the market – until the first one to make a copy does it cheaper. Before long, this would lead to victory for those providing the cheapest products and services. Large companies with fine-tuned production and distribution systems would most likely have an advantage.

If it was not possible to defend or control your own intellectual property rights, companies engaged in progressive product development would lose markets to their competitors. Copying parties could improve their position with any means necessary. It would be hard for Finland with its high cost level to compete with low-cost countries.

“Product development = risk”

It would be difficult to defend the fruits of your creative work and product development without intellectual property rights. The core task of companies is to generate profits for their owners. This logic also applies to product development: new innovations and development are used to seek a competitive advantage or a wider market. Product development is not self-evident, but requires both money and time from companies. Why invest in something new if the achievements of your work would be freely available to others? Without intellectual property rights, product development would become a risk.

On the other hand, making various agreements would also become challenging: How and about what to agree with, for example, the product’s manufacturer? Or how to ensure that a partner does not take advantage of the innovation by itself? It would be necessary to take agreements to a whole new level of specificity.

“Trust in companies under strain”

From a consumer perspective, trust in companies and products would collapse without IP rights. You could no longer be certain that Valio milk is Valio milk, that a Hilti drilling machine is of the same quality as before or that Chanel perfume is actually made in France. Poor-quality copies could destroy the quality image of companies.

The protection of IP rights has traditionally been the trump card of Finnish companies. Good intellectual property expertise has contributed to maintaining production in Finland as well. It is interesting to think about whether it would be worth it to build, for example, automated work equipment in Finland if they could not be protected as well as at present.

“For a better world”

Strong IP rights and support for rights protection in international agreements are part of responsibility because intellectual property rights encourage the creation of something new and better. The world needs new innovations to solve global challenges: halting climate change, ensuring the sufficiency of food, energy and materials as well as fighting for a healthier and safer life require bold innovation and confidence in product development partners and the future.

Contact us

Sini-Maaria Mikkilä
+358 50 5910234

Read how an IPR Audit and an IP strategy drafted in cooperation facilitate a company’s decision-making, guide the optimal use of various forms of protection and allow IP management.