Monday, 24 September 2012

It's alive!

This blog has been a bit (too much) on the quiet side the past months, but at least we have plenty of good excuses. First of all, at these latitudes, summer is a convenient all-around excuse, and not just in Finland. But more importantly, both of us have experienced some professional mobility around August. Anniina has taken a sabbatical from her position at the university, and is now working as the secretary of the Finnish Copyright Council, an independent entity performing an advisory function under the Ministry of Education and Culture. (This obviously somewhat restricts her ability to comment on ongoing and past cases, but hopefully not too much so.)

And as for myself (Anna), I have been busy with a start-up company specialized in intelligent legal technology in the field of trademark law that I co-founded with some other people earlier this year. (Less vague version coming up in October...) The company is called Onomatics and the beta version of our first product went live today. The product is an intelligent trademark analysis system for the time being usable as a trademark database but more to come later, and it is largely based on the work I have done on MOSONG starting over ten years ago. You can read more about Onomatics on the Onomatics blog (design still under construction...), on this blog I’ll try to keep the pitching (as opposed to bitching) to a minimum and focus here on the researchy stuff instead.

Still, this move has also resulted in something of a shift in my own research interests. Now, for obvious reasons, I’m paying a lot more attention to the (local) start-up scene in general and (worldwide) legal start-ups in particular. A related question in this context is the commercialization of the fruits of academic basic research in general, and as someone who has earlier worked for ages at a company founded for that specific purpose and still continuously struggling with the whole idea, I certainly might have a thing or two to say about it and some authority to stand behind my words as well.

Another more indirectly related topic is Usability. My continuous participation in the design process at Onomatics together with having to use the alternatives provided by OHIM, USPTO et al on a daily basis has been something of an eye-opener as to how crufty those services really are. (BTW, my favourite piece of this kind of legacy cruft is the Logout button in TESS.)  Coincidentally, Usability and software procurement in general have now also become hot political topics in Finland with the plans to replace all the medical record and other related data systems in one ginormous EUR 1.8bn (budgeted) project, and just in time for the upcoming municipal elections. The cost of bad usability in the health sector has already been pointed out by the National Audit Office as well. Although I have mostly just followed the local debate, these questions are certainly relevant all over the world, and I would certainly appreciate any pointers to earlier work in this field in a legal informatics or regulatory context.


  1. Never a bad idea to have some sort of trademark database. In fact, our business lawyer from brisbane could use something like that considering the amount of copyright cases he sometimes handles.

  2. Yeah, we're still just getting started at Onomatics, so stay tuned!