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Orion relies on long-term trademark work to build its pharmaceutical brands

Orion, which has grown into an international company, started to produce pharmaceuticals in Finland more than a century ago. Trademarks play an important role in the commercialisation of medicinal products.

Finns have probably several products in their medicine cabinets carrying the curved Orion logo. In addition to the anti-inflammatory drug Burana, which is probably the best-known of Orion’s brands, the company also has nearly 400 other valid trademarks in the PRH’s trademark database. IPR protection of pharmaceutical products is not a straightforward matter.

“As a pharmaceutical operator, we cannot enter the market without a marketing authorisation, and the patented medicinal product for which such an authorisation is applied must have a name,” explains Heidi Adler, Orion’s IPR Director.

“For the authorisation applications, we create and register a large number of trademarks and some of them are never needed. If a trademark that is never used would expire in three years, as is the case in the United States, names would be released for circulation more quickly,” adds Taru Kallio-Nyholm, who is responsible for Orion’s trademark portfolio.

Self-care products account for nearly one quarter of Orion’s net sales of human pharmaceuticals in Finland, and Kallio-Nyholm compares the sales and marketing of such products with other consumer products. Thus, in addition to the name, the trademark also protects the packaging and other visual elements. New concept brands, such as active lifestyle product series with mobile phone applications, are provided with comprehensive protection.

According to Adler and Kallio-Nyholm, as a rule, Orion first registers its trademarks in the PRH because the agency examines the trademarks quickly and thoroughly. However, in their view, the six-month priority period is too short for pharmaceutical products, and they would also like to see a separate trademark category for such products.

Heidi Adler and Taru Kallio-Ny­holm are work­ing to pro­tect tra­di­tional Orion trade­marks. For ex­am­ple VI­TOL, de­vel­oped by Arvo Ylppö and reg­is­tered in 1949, did not only pre­vent rick­ets but also saved Orion from bank­ruptcy.

Proprietary drugs are successful in international markets

Orion has its head office in Finland and a solidly Finnish ownership base even though the company, established in 1917, has grown into a global listed corporation cooperating with international actors in the sector.

Developing pharmaceuticals is a long-term process and according to Adler, developing a new medicine typically takes between 10 to 15 years before it enters the market.

“We want to be an innovative operator and proprietary drugs account for a significant proportion of our net sales. This will also be the case in the future. The intellectual property rights for such products are protected regionally or locally and in a manner supporting our business strategy.”

In addition to strengthening its position in the European market, the company is also focusing on Asia and the United States, and it has its own sales units in 33 countries. Internationalisation has also meant more effective IPR supervision and intervention in cases involving suspected copies and counterfeit medicines.

Orion Corporation

  • Founded in Helsinki in 1917
  • Develops and produces pharmaceuticals for humans and animals and carries out research on them.
  • The focus in the research on new proprietary medicines is on painkillers and cancer drugs.
  • The company has its head office and six production sites in Finland, and sales units in 33 countries.
  • About 3,600 employees of whom 1,000 work outside Finland (2023)
  • Net sales EUR 1,013 million, operating profit EUR 26.4 million (2023)

Original text in Finnish: Päivi Helander
Photos: Nina Kaverinen and Orion Corporation