Maria Puronvarsi, who recently settled from Helsinki to her hometown in Southern Ostrobothnia in Finland, is a lawyer and founding member of Kaulo & Partners, for whom entrepreneurship is a natural part of her personality.

When Jani Kaulo, Managing Partner of Kaulo & Partners, called about his idea to set up a law firm focusing on brand rights, and inquired about his lawyer colleague’s interest and will in becoming a business partner, Maria Puronvarsi responded boldly and resolutely "I will" after a short reflection.

At the time of the establishment of Kaulo & Partners, in August 2021, Maria also answered “I will” to her husband, a South Ostrobothnian entrepreneur. Previously, a house had already been built together in Härmä, and working as IP Lawyer mainly remotely from the home office and shuttling between Helsinki and Härmä had already proved to be a well-functioning arrangement. Now the two entrepreneurs from South Ostrobothnia have settled under the same roof in Härmä.

“The idea of entrepreneurship had been on my mind before. A strong connection to entrepreneurship comes from childhood. My parents have been very entrepreneurial and earned their living from a cereal farm. My sister also works as a horse entrepreneur. I have seen the everyday life of an entrepreneur up close and have also been following my husband's business for more than ten years, so it was not a leap into the completely unknown”, Maria Puronvarsi describes her own natural transition from an employee to an entrepreneur.

Childhood's veterinary dream turned into a career as a lawyer

Studies in law and a lawyer career were also “an easy and a clear choice” at the time of the decision. The goal was already clear in the early years of secondary high school, encouraged by parents.

“In high school, I still couldn’t think about what kind of legal work I’d like to do in the future, but I was interested in the extensive professional opportunities. The only career option I was seriously considering was a veterinarian.”

The dream of a career as a veterinarian was born through own pets. Childhood on the farm in Ilmajoki made it possible to have animals and pets around.

“As a child, I had 20 sheep as pets at best. I also enjoyed horseback riding and horses, but when I got my first dog at the age of 9, dogs and dog sports started to inspire me the most. I also realized that a veterinary career would practically not work for me, because as an animal lover I would probably have cried after every pet that was being treated and eventually would not survive.”

However, taking care of the animals, training own dogs, and competing with them have strengthened important qualities for a lawyer as well: taking responsibility, diligence, hard work and perseverance.

The world of trademarks and brands attracted

Maria Puronvarsi began her Master of Law studies at the Vaasa unit of the University of Helsinki, completed her notarial degree partly in Swedish language focusing on labour law, and completed her master studies in Helsinki. After gaining momentum, she also decided to complete a commercial master’s degree at the Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki and specialize in intellectual property law.

“Enthusiasm for intellectual property rights arose with my master’s thesis related to trademark law and well-known trademarks. Trademarks and the world of brands began to fascinate me more and more, so I also wanted to complete another degree, which focused on IP law. At that time, it became clear that I wanted to get to work with trademarks and brands.”

Alongside her studies, Maria first worked as a legal trainee in a food industry company with contract law related issues.

“It was very rewarding to get to know the work of an in-house lawyer. This experience also helped me to be better able to settle into the client's perspective in my own client work.”

In her first IPR-related job at the IPR University Center, Maria became acquainted with IPR case law while getting to know many of her future colleagues: trademark attorneys and IP lawyers working in the trademark industry.

"I realized that I also wanted to start working as a Brand Protection Lawyer in an IP law firm."

Entrepreneurship and attorney work with a common vision

As an IP lawyer since 2016, Maria Puronvarsi has represented a wide range of domestic and international brand owners operating in various industries and handled challenging assignments. Jani Kaulo, the current business partner, has acted as one of the closest mentors in the trademark industry.

“At the beginning of my career, Jani was my mentor especially in counterfeit assignments, and as a more experienced colleague, he supported me also in other challenging matters such as trademark infringements. We have been cooperating for a long time, so it was a natural step to set up a joint company, with a shared vision”, Maria describes.

As an IP lawyer, Maria had developed her own vision of how and with what kind of companies she wants to do her own client work. It coincided well with Jani Kaulo's thoughts.

The way Kaulo & Partners wants to serve its clients is linked to a strategic approach, proactive service, and the idea of a deeper partnership than single assignments.

"It is challenging for a lawyer to be able to help clients strategically if cases related to brand rights and commercial agreements are handled without an overall view of the business, and the decisions are made on an ad hoc basis in separate situations."

I want to know all my clients well

Kaulo & Partners values partnership in its client relationships. Important is also the shared view that brand rights are a valuable intangible asset to invest in.

“We want to know all our clients and the industries they represent well, because the specifics of the industry must also be considered when planning measures and anticipating IP risks. The same strategy is not applicable for everyone, and trademarks and contracts require a client-specific approach to work best. In the fashion industry, for example, brand rights must be considered from a completely different perspective than, for example, in the pharmaceutical or the food industry, which also involve a lot of industry-specific regulation”, Maria explains.

Positive client feedback has also crystallized what kind of service companies need and value.

“Companies appreciate the ability of a lawyer to present things practically and without the hassle of legal jargon. I strive to ensure that the recommendations and assessments I provide are always as clear as possible, considering the overall situation of the company, and explaining the impact of the decisions to the company. The most rewarding are the moments when I am able to solve a problem for the benefit of the client, or prevent a competitor from trying to take advantage of my client’s brand.”

A wide range of legal aspects is wrapped around brands

As a brand protection lawyer, Maria has been able to accomplish things that are important and interesting to her in a variety of ways. Brands and marketing are closely related, so she has also wanted to specialize in marketing law. In addition, she works as a member in the Finnish Fashion Law Association and is familiar with legal issues in the field of fashion and design.

“I am genuinely interested in brands representing different industries, and I actively follow brands in my free time, for example through social media. It is valuable for me to work as a lawyer with many iconic or rising new brands. I have always been interested in fashion as well, so it has been natural to combine even law and fashion”, Maria explains.

A wide range of contract, trademark, and marketing law, and especially interpretation of the laws, are wrapped around brands. Several perspectives are often considered at the same time: is this a trademark infringement, is it possible to intervene, what kind of competition is fair, what kind of reference to another trademark is allowed, where is the line between inspiration and copying; how, for example, responsibility or ecology can be communicated, how is influencer marketing or marketing to children done in the right way and according to the rules? In addition, interpretations and practices of the law evolve with the case law, so a lawyer needs to keep up with developments in the field.

"In various disputes between brand owners, the core of a lawyer's job is to find the right arguments and, with them, sensible recommendations for action."

“In addition to protecting and defending brand rights, I am happy to help brands expand into new markets, new product groups and reach new audiences through various commercial agreements and licensing. Where licensing fits into the brand strategy, it is an excellent way to grow the business and expand brand awareness.” 

Entrepreneurship enables a meaningful everyday life

Through her own business, Maria has thought a lot about what makes a meaningful everyday life.

“A big slice of life is spent on work, so it’s important to me that I get to do meaningful work with good colleagues and clients who value their brands. In your own company you can really influence your work and make a difference. It has fascinated and motivated me the most.”

Entrepreneurship has also made it possible to work more flexibly from the home office than before.

“Although I enjoy Helsinki and consider it a wonderful city, living close to nature and forest, own space and peacefulness are important to me. Therefore, Southern Ostrobothnia pulls a longer strait. Further, it’s a great counterbalance to work when I get to put my hands in the soil in my garden.”

With the house project, Maria has also been able to realize her interior design dreams.

“In addition to gardening, I enjoy collecting antiques and visiting second-hand markets. I value time-resistant, high-quality vintage products in both interior design and fashion. I am pleased that responsibility is presently valued also in the fashion industry, and I strive to consume responsibly myself, too.”

Enthusiasm, diligence, fighting spirit and a drive for protection

Maria's character and the target of a meaningful life also include a strong need to move forward and develop.

“When I get excited about something, I really want to focus on it.”

Now, developing Kaulo & Partners is number one, but Maria also has a dream eventually to return to the training fields someday with dogs. Today, two Belgian Shepherds are beloved pets, but the dog sport demanding extensive training and perseverance has been an important part of Maria’s free time for the past nearly a decade. Competing with Roihu (“Blaze”), now already retired, took this duo as their best performance to the World Championships for tracking, obedience, and protection.

“It was a historic achievement, as there had never been a black Belgian Shepherd female dog attending the WC before. We gained the first accepted WC result recorded for the variety of this dog breed and gender.”

It is said that the choice of breed and characteristics of a pet dog also tell a lot about its owner. Maria describes her pets as enthusiastic and energetic, balanced and with “healthy heads”. When needed, they also have enough of fighting spirit and an inherent drive for protection.

Good qualities also for an entrepreneur and a lawyer defending brand rights.