May 31, 2018
A modern forest machine is a highly advanced and automated package – and a platform for innovation that requires continuous development.
“A single forest machine includes several innovations. Patenting such inventions protects our R&D results for deployment in securing and developing our business,” says Teppo Fält, Patent Engineer at Ponsse.
For example, the advanced PONSSE Scorpion harvester includes five protected new inventions – a patent family.
”In practice, every single invention deployed in a forest machine requires the protection of a patent application. A patent family is created when patent applications are filed abroad to secure the related right of priority,” explains Kalle Einola, Manager, Technology, Product Safety & IPR at Ponsse.
Intellectual property rights are a key element of everyday R&D in Ponsse. Its partner in this regard is Kolster, which assists in the identification of inventions, the drafting of patent applications, other product protection, patent monitoring and management of the overall patent portfolio.
“An effective IP portfolio helps us to succeed on the international markets. Since IP is becoming even more important to competitiveness, it is a key investment area for us. IP covers so many issues that we cannot manage it alone. Kolster handles IP on the basis of routines born of experience and the right tools," says Teppo Fält.
Ponsse's IP portfolio contains a couple of hundred patents and patent applications, as well as utility models, trademarks and design rights protecting the appearance of products.
Kolster has been Ponsse’s partner in IP management for over twenty years. The Ponsse account is currently handled by patent attorneys Sini-Maaria Mikkilä and Håkan Niemi. A dozen or so other Kolster experts also serve Ponsse.
"Our partnership with Kolster allows us to focus on the initial stage of the process – the internal evaluation of inventions. Ponsse generates hundreds of ideas and inventions each year, and we need to review all of them carefully,” says Fält.
Communication is intense. Håkan Niemi, who is a patent attorney in Kolster’s Vaasa office, and Sini-Maaria Mikkilä, the Head of Kolster Tampere, are often in contact with Fält – who works in Ponsse’s Vieremä unit – on a daily basis. They also keep in touch with Ponsse’s Kalle Einola and his Product Development Unit in Tampere and a similar unit run by Ponsse's subsidiary, EPEC, in Seinäjoki.
Teppo Fält, a patent engineer at Ponsse; Håkan Niemi, a patent attorney at Kolster; and Kalle Einola, Manager, Technology, Product Safety & IPR at Ponsse, go through the key IP issues of last spring and make plans for the future.
Ponsse is a world-leading forest machine manufacturer with subsidiaries in 11 countries. For Ponsse to retain its market position, its machines must operate on eucalyptus plantations in Brazil and in the Siberian taiga, while remaining at the cutting edge of technology. Internationalism numbers among the many strengths of Ponsse and Kolster.
"Kolster’s international IP expertise and relationships are also key assets," says Fält.
The partnership between Ponsse and Håkan Niemi of Kolster began in 1994. The first assignment concerned a patent for a forest machine stabilisation system. The patent was in force for 20 years and lapsed a couple of years ago. There have been dozens of patents and other forms of protection since then.
"We value the iron patent application drafting routines that this partnership offers. Kolster’s experts know how to formulate patent texts to gain protection of just the right scope. In addition, they often help us to define which countries it is worth covering with our patents," says Kalle Einola.
The importance of inventions to the company and its customers is often weighed up together.
"It’s not always easy to identify inventions. We don’t always have the clearest view of which novelties meet patenting requirements. Kolster is an important sparring partner that provides us with new perspectives, where necessary."
A growing proportion of Ponsse's IP concerns automation solutions of various kinds.
"The industry is developing rapidly and we must continuously develop our IP portfolio. We have recently discussed broader strategic cooperation with Kolster," says Kalle Einola.
Merely protecting the results of your own R&D does not add up to the IP activities of a successful company. Respecting the IP of competitors is just as important.
“Alongside Kolster, we keep a close eye on what our competitors are up to around the world. This keeps us abreast of developments in technology and our sector. If necessary, we intervene in patent applications filed by our competitors. We wouldn’t have time for that without Kolster."
Kolster pre-filters public patent applications by Ponsse’s competitors and forwards them to Fält. Thousands of such patent publications appear every year. If necessary, patents in need of more detailed monitoring are selected from these.
Ponsse and Kolster constantly learn from each other, and their cooperation intensifies from year to year.
"Our cooperation has shown me that I’ve taken too narrow an approach to some issues. Kolster’s experts help me to see the wood for the trees and always provide a fresh perspective," explains Teppo.
Håkan Niemi appreciates having a partner with whom he can discuss and explore IP issues in greater depth.
"Our discussions always bring issues into sharp focus, regardless of whether a patent or other IP matters are involved."
IP documentation and formalities are precisely scheduled. On Ponsse’s behalf, Kolster ensures that IP rights are not inadvertently lost and documents are delivered on time.
“Expertise and effective systems are needed for this. It’s great that our portfolio is handled with a tight, comprehensive grip – as if it belonged to Kolster rather than Ponsse."
Håkan Niemi, a patent attorney at Kolster; Teppo Fält, a Patent Engineer at Ponsse; and Kalle Einola, Manager, Technology, Product Safety & IPR at Ponsse, are in continuous contact by e-mail. They gather around the same table to go through topical IP issues a few times a year.
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.