Leading international technology and IPR expert Anna Haapanen joined Dittmar & Indrenius as a partner in August 2019 and assumed the role of Head of Technology & Outsourcing and Co-Head of Intellectual Property.
Curious in Tech
It was love at first sight. Anna became fascinated in the intersection of technology and intellectual property rights already in the beginning of her law studies at the University of Helsinki. Her mother found an old handwritten note from those days this summer from the family’s country house guest book saying: Anna paid us a brief visit and told she has just started studying IPRs. She is so excited! “Little did I know at the time that this spark would become the basis of my entire career“, Anna says laughing contagiously.
After graduating from the University of Helsinki and working as an in-house lawyer at Hantro and Nokia as well as an external technology lawyer at Roschier, she earned her LL.M degree at Columbia University, graduating with Stone Scholar honors. With a curious mind and a strong drive to learn more, she continued her path to a very competitive Senior Scholar’s program at Stanford Law School to work on her doctoral dissertation on patent law and free software licensing. She earned her Doctor of Laws (LL.D) degree in intellectual property laws from the University of Helsinki in 2017.
About her distinguished academic credentials, she says that her goal has always been to develop her skill set further and to become an expert in tech. “To me, it was all three from the beginning: passion, learning and exploring”, she says.
“To become an expert in anything requires exquisite ability to focus and analytical skills in order to grasp the essence and understand the interdependencies within complex matters. In other words, to see the forest from the trees”.
Anna admits that her academic side speaks volumes about her uncompromised classic lawyer stamina and willingness to dig deeper and turn any stone to find not only the right answer, but an actionable solution for the client. Like many of her peers, she has done the heavy lifting at work by burning the midnight oil and working through the night shifts but even that did not fulfil her urge to study and learn more of technology and the law.
“I never took short cuts. I used countless amount of hours just to read, think, write and explore – to me, however, research is not nerdy, quite the contrary”, she says. “It is de lege ferenda that inspires me, the constant development through hard work and resolving the real world complexity into fine simplicity. And that is also the key in delivering clients true business value as an attorney”, she continues.
Being a very good lawyer is not enough
“Most attorneys are really good lawyers, but that is not enough in today’s world. How to develop from a very good lawyer to an excellent advisor? That is the question, as it makes a big difference”, Anna contemplates. In addition to her academic credentials, another special characteristic of Anna’s professional background is her exceptionally extensive in-house counsel experience. In addition to having worked as in-house lawyer at Hantro and Nokia right after her graduation, Anna has also held visiting in-house counsel positions at various technology companies such as Supercell, Accenture, Nokia and Comptel.
“As a young technology lawyer, I had to continuously sharpen my thinking when challenged by software developers or sales guys. These experiences and learning journeys provided me with a real world introduction to the secrets of technology law. Those learnings have carried me to this day, ” she says.
When asked about the biggest eye-opener from working on the client side, her answer comes right away. “Nothing is more important than the legal advisor really understanding the surrounding business realities and providing a solution that fits the client’s needs and which the client can easily understand and act upon.” In her opinion, a very good lawyer is able to dig deeper in high-level jurisprudence, be legally solid and sound and even innovative in terms of interpreting a complex legal issue but an excellent advisor is the one who is able to communicate clearly her proper strategic advice, sometimes through hiding a few layers of the legal complexities involved.
I still smile to myself when I think of discussing with one client “the lovely liability model” that we designed together.
“While attorney’s role requires being tough at times, the best parts of the profession are the moments when you really connect with your client and have fun at work. I still smile to myself when I think of discussing with one client “the lovely liability model” that we designed together. While the words lovely and liability rarely come in the same package, it indeed shared the parties’ risk exposure fairly in the right manner and conformed to the industry practice”, Anna explains.
All Transactions Are Technology Transactions
In Anna’s opinion, all transactions are technology transactions. “If you think of mergers, acquisitions or joint ventures, the key drivers for these transactions are more often the targets’ technology assets”, says Anna. She goes on explaining that even if the target would not have its own tech solutions, its operations would still run on technology.
Global phenomena such as digitalisation and sustainability objectives accelerate transformation of existing business models and emergence of new businesses. Development of new technologies and innovations bring various industries into the digital and more sustainable society. While connectivity enables the internet of everything (IoE), these technologies, business models and ecosystems around them mandate a whole deal of planning.
According to Anna, while our world is becoming increasingly digital, the importance of legal counsel with deep interest and understanding of technology is rising rapidly across all businesses and business areas. Technology lawyers have a vital role in the whole life cycle of technology transactions from providing legal support for the initial phases of developing disruptive technologies and related business models all the way to acquiring unicorns, establishing joint ventures, transferring businesses or divesting redundancies. Further, they are needed for scoping, supervising and conducting the IP/IT and data related due diligence processes as well as in all phases of drafting and negotiating share purchase or business transfer agreements as well as all ancillary technology and IP related agreements.
“I love making deals. The complex tech, IP and data intensive questions and related fast phased negotiations are the fuel for my drive.”
An important part of technology lawyers’ work is also designing, drafting or negotiating required agreements for the whole ecosystem of the digital businesses, including various types of direct customers as well as end user or consumer facing license agreements. In order to draft required agreements for the contractual whole, one must understand, not only technology and intellectual property rights, but also how the money flows (in or out of pocket) in the ecosystem, and where the underlying liabilities are.
Equally important is to understand where the data comes from, where it is stored, how it is processed, where is it transferred and what stakeholders are responsible if there is a data breach and leakage happens. “According to an old Cicero quote, Omnia Mea Mecum Porto, all intelligence that one needs, is stored in the head. Today, pretty much all that we need, is in our intelligent mobile device. However, where ever there is intelligence, there is vulnerability”, says Anna. “Therefore, proper safety mechanisms must be in place to ensure security by design”, she continues.
“Today, pretty much all that we need, is in our intelligent mobile device. However, where ever there is intelligence, there is vulnerability.”
At D&I, Anna will be working side-by-side with Partner Jukka Lång in Innovation Powerhouse in providing strategic legal advice for companies in any industry dealing with new innovations transforming their businesses. The team is known for being the leading digital disruption team in Finland with an exceptional track-record covering new digital business models, data, cybersecurity, Fintech, blockchain and other disruptive technologies. Anna is excited about joining forces with this great team and about the possibility of developing and cooperating with all three D&I Powerhouses: the Innovation, Transaction and Dispute Powerhouses. “I feel that I am at the right place at the right time,” Anna says.