Benelux: Belgium

Digitalisation and harmonisation continue to transform the practice of trademark law in Belgium, which previously had a reputation as a slow-moving, conservative jurisdiction. Electronic filing and opposition systems introduced by the Benelux Office of Intellectual Property (BOIP) have made the administration of trademarks more efficient, streamlined and user friendly. Already internationalised by the BOIP’s acceptance of applications in English, the domestic regime is set to be further integrated into the wider EU framework through the implementation of a trademark reform package passed in March 2016. Benelux-based full-service outfits still dominate, with their primary competition coming from several prominent local boutiques. Many outfits have expanded their prosecution services, blurring the traditional division between law firms and trademark agencies.

Firms

1
ALTIUS
NautaDutilh
2
Allen & Overy LLP
Bird & Bird
HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER Europe LLP
Simont Braun
3
Baker McKenzie
Crowell & Moring LLP
Fieldfisher LLP
Lydian
Allen & Overy LLP
One of the giants of Belgian IP law, Allen & Overy fields a team of top-qualified lawyers supported by a cohesive international network, making it a safe pair of hands for complex cross-border contentious and transactional briefs. It represents a wide range of big-name multinationals, including Nikon, Intel, Omega and Deutsche Telekom. “One of the best all-round IP lawyers in the country”, Geert Glas not only spearheads the Belgian team, but also helms the global IP practice; his “excellent reasoning skills” make him one of the most persuasive advocates on the market. Patrons also extol his unrivalled ability to “find solutions” no matter what the circumstances: he “knows when to push and when not to” and never fails to “act in clients’ best interests”.
ALTIUS
Full-service commercial outfit ALTIUS has perhaps the most active IP department in Belgium. Competitors hail it as “cutting edge, with the most high-quality practitioners of any firm in the market”. While it excels across the board, ALTIUS stands out in particular for its killer contentious capabilities. It recently triumphed for Capri Sun in a hot-topic dispute regarding its three-dimensional trademark and assiduously protected the geographical indication rights of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne. “Formidable opponent” Paul Maeyaert is universally praised for his “persuasive and exhaustive approach, which always achieves results”. “His quality shines through,” report courtroom opponents. Maeyaert’s style is aggressive, but he “fights on the merits and doesn’t play games”. He is “collegial with peers”, but always “stands up for the interests of his clients”. “Business orientated and available”, Olivier Vrins is “very service minded and knows his way around intellectual property, providing clear and useful advice”. His no-nonsense, pragmatic approach rests on a solid bedrock of trademark expertise. Both Vrins and Maeyaert are famed for their prowess in the anti-counterfeiting space, moving swiftly and efficiently to take copycats off the market.
Baker McKenzie
Brand owners with diverse international assets are consistently well served by Baker McKenzie. A comprehensive trademark offering is bolstered by seamless cross-border coordination – while its broader business law expertise ensures that IP matters are addressed from a distinctly commercial perspective. “Superb litigator” Koen De Winter is the Antwerp office’s lead IP partner. The anti-counterfeiting guru’s 37 years of experience make him a trusted adviser for a string of prominent global clients. His approach is characterised by diligent, thorough preparation and he is supported by a team of dedicated associates.
Bird & Bird
Global behemoth Bird & Bird serves up cutting-edge legal solutions for concerns of all shapes and sizes, but is particularly well equipped to advise those with interests spanning several European jurisdictions. Despite the firm’s long and fabled history, clients admire its perpetually fresh, “out-of-the-box thinking”. As one brand owner enthuses: “It is a real partner that helps us with our business needs.” It acts for a plethora of pre-eminent clients – including luxury goods heavyweight LVMH – across all stages of the trademark lifecycle. It recently secured victory for Anheuser-Busch InBev in a high-profile dispute with a major retailer, which set a significant precedent regarding the relative significance of design and word elements of labels. Jean-Christophe Troussel has long been at the pinnacle of the profession; he is an “expert in his field and provides a user-friendly service which is very business minded and pragmatic”. Newcomer CAPE IP’s profile is firmly on the ascendant. Founded in February 2016, the Ghent-based firm is one of a select few boutiques in the country. The compact outfit “combines premium services in intellectual property with the flexibility of a small and dedicated law firm’’, allowing it to dispense laser-focused advice to brand owners in sectors as varied as technology, pharmaceuticals, textiles and consumer goods. It especially excels at licensing, anti-counterfeiting and IP strategy. Despite its youth, CAPE IP can draw on the deep experience of its two founding partners, who both have formidable track records at established practices. “A real star and go-to IP lawyer in Belgium”, Patricia Cappuyns ably dispatches challenging contentious briefs at the Belgian and European level, winning accolades for her “client-friendly, commercial and pragmatic advice”. Her insight at the intersection of IP and competition law is also in high demand. With more than 20 years’ IP practice under her belt, Véronique Pede is “among the top lawyers in Belgium”.
Crowell & Moring LLP
The Belgian office of leading US full-service outfit Crowell & Moring graces the WTR 1000 rankings for the second time, and deservedly so. It has substantial strength in depth in the trademark sphere, acting with equal dexterity in domestic, European and global matters for a diverse clientele. A web of offices across North America, in addition to outposts in London and Belgium, makes it ideal for clients with transatlantic brand interests. Seasoned litigation partner Flip Petillion leads the trademark team and comes recommended as a trustworthy adviser in the highest-stakes cases. One fellow professional salutes him for his extraordinary availability: “he can be reached pretty much any time”, always responding to urgent matters quickly and cogently. Partner Jan-Diederik Lindemans’ enviable expertise covers myriad aspects of IP and entertainment law; he is a heavy-hitter in the media, fashion and advertising sectors, among others. Peers praise him as a “great litigator with the proven ability to handle complex trademark cases”. The percipient Christian Dekoninck is another favoured advocate of pre-eminent players in industries as diverse as media and life sciences.
Fieldfisher LLP
Full-service Fieldfisher’s Brussels bureau is home to a formidable trademark litigation team, which works in close conjunction with counterparts in the firm’s London, Paris, Hamburg, Munich and Dusseldorf offices. It has a particularly strong presence in the media, pharmaceuticals, high-tech and retail sectors; key clients include Telenet, Base Company, Playgo and celebrated footballer Marouane Fellaini. The nimble ensemble is esteemed for its “very high level of professionalism”, extensive knowledge base and “excellent linguistic skills”. Peers laud IP department head Stijn Debaene as “very intelligent” and a courtroom ace. His close partner Hakim Haouideg shines on both the contentious and transactional fronts; drawing on his previous experience at Allen & Overy, he is famed for his “in-depth analysis and nuanced, balanced opinions”: “He will have thought of everything before giving his advice.” He is a “pleasure to deal with” to boot. Clients have “no problem recommending” the pair to “anyone with issues in Benelux or the European Union”.
HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER Europe LLP
“Very dynamic boutique” Hoyng Rokh Monegier is making waves on the Belgian IP scene. Having set up shop just a few years ago, it continues unabated on its upward trajectory. Although offering the full range of trademark services, it is most renowned for its first-rate contentious capabilities; that said, Philip Morris recently entrusted the management of its entire portfolio to the firm. Managing partner Carl De Meyer is a “fine professional with a fine legal mind and sharp reasoning”; his countless deft performances in Belgian and European courtrooms have won numerous admirers. Endowed with “good strategic sense”, outstanding all-rounder Carina Gommers is sought after for her “extremely proactive approach” and unrivalled ability to “outline options in a clear and logical way”. She is also highly respected for her expertise in the anti-counterfeiting space; along with De Meyer, she has helped to shape goods-in-transit protection provisions in new European trademark legislation.
Lydian
Adept in all areas of trademark practice, Lydian wins particularly warm plaudits for its world-class anti-counterfeiting services. It is the trusted guardian of many globally recognised brands – particularly in the watch and luxury goods sectors, where it has dexterously handled negotiations and opposition proceedings for the Swatch Group and represented Gucci and Sergio Rossi, among others. It boasts a wealth of experience before the Belgian courts, as well as the BOIP and the EU Intellectual Property Office. The IP team keeps clients’ commercial needs front and centre, working closely with the firm’s business law divisions to this end. Venerated partner Annick Mottet Haugaard speedily and adroitly resolves some of the most pressing counterfeiting issues for many prestigious trademark owners. Esteemed former European Communities Trademark Association president Mottet Haugaard currently serves on the Belgian Council for Intellectual Property.
NautaDutilh
A formidable full-service operator with offices across Benelux and beyond, NautaDutilh has an “excellent reputation for high-quality work on trademarks”; many peers contend that it “deserves to be in the gold band”. Clients recommend it for its “professionalism, reactivity and ability to give answers to all of the different questions around any specific case that it deals with”. It has insider knowledge of the consumer goods, life sciences and food and beverage sectors, and also excels at anti-counterfeiting briefs. As testament to its matchless expertise, it represented the International Trademark Association (INTA) in a crucial case before the European courts. A “real gentleman and a master in his field”, Philippe Péters is a “big name” who combines his considerable academic and contentious nous to devastating effect; he has a knack for “understanding issues very quickly and reacting accurately and at high speed, which is never easy with new clients”. Another pillar of the firm is Florence Verhoestraete, a “fabulous attorney” who earns glowing reports from some of the best in the business. Shrewd litigator Tanguy de Haan has enviable experience in his craft, having made a string of appearances at the European Court of Justice.
Simont Braun
Simont Braun is one of Belgium’s premier full-service outfits, although it garners particular accolades for its trademark litigation prowess: “It is a great firm and has excellent lawyers who really know what they are talking about.” Emmanuel Cornu “knows by heart the relevant EU case law. He is very academic – an encyclopaedia of trademark law”. He wrote the definitive book on the subject in Belgium, edits a French-language IP review and is an influential figure in the media, telecommunications, luxury goods and food industries. Equally skilled as a litigator and arbitrator, he represents an impressive range of clients at the Belgian, Benelux and EU levels. Another well-published and highly respected practitioner at the firm is Eric De Gryse, who currently heads the INTA Europe/Middle East Sub-committee on Geographical Indications. He is widely recognised for his contentious acumen and commercially attuned approach. Van Innis & Delarue has quickly consolidated its position as one of Belgium’s elite boutiques since its establishment in 2013. It has devoted significant resources to its trademark practice, representing an unparalleled roster of clients in the fashion and luxury brands sector in particular – it famously defended the Christian Louboutin red sole trademark, which it helped to establish, and enforced the oldest apparel trademark in the United States for Levi Strauss. Guided by an innovation-centric ethos, it works solely on behalf of brand pioneers; while its services are characterised by a high degree of flexibility and close partner involvement. Peers describe leading light Thierry Van Innis as an “institution”, an “elder statesman” and a “mastermind in European trademark law”. Widely admired for his “ability to work for big clients and remain credible without a big infrastructure around him”, he is famed for his aggressive, “street-fighter” litigation style, which is reinforced by deep knowledge of jurisprudence and case law. Counterparts commend his capacity to “think outside the box and come up with extremely convincing arguments”; while clients rave about his “very economic view, which avoids high costs” and “definitely adds value for money”. As one enthuses: “He is a sharp and efficient litigator and his advice is tailor made.” Managing partner and contentious ace Dieter Delarue is “great to work with” and passionate about fashion, media and entertainment. The adept prosecution strategist and transactional lawyer is prized for the rigour and precision of his work.

Individuals

Emmanuel Cornu - Simont Braun
Geert V Glas - Allen & Overy LLP
Paul Maeyaert - ALTIUS
Philippe Péters - NautaDutilh
Thierry Van Innis - Van Innis & Delarue
Olivier Vrins - ALTIUS
Carl De Meyer - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER Europe LLP
Koen De Winter - Baker McKenzie
Dieter Delarue - Van Innis & Delarue
Carina Gommers - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER Europe LLP
Annick Mottet Haugaard - Lydian
Flip Petillion - Crowell & Moring LLP
Jean-Christophe Troussel - Bird & Bird
Florence Verhoestraete - NautaDutilh
Patricia Cappuyns - CAPE IP Law
Eric De Gryse - Simont Braun
Tanguy de Haan - NautaDutilh
Stijn Debaene - Fieldfisher LLP
Christian Dekoninck - Crowell & Moring LLP
Hakim Haouideg - Fieldfisher LLP
Tom Heremans - CMS DeBacker
Jan-Diederik Lindemans - Crowell & Moring LLP
Véronique Pede - CAPE IP Law
Louis Puts - LMBD
Marius Schneider - Cruyplants Eloy Wagemans & Partners

anti-counterfeiting

Carl De Meyer - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER Europe LLP
Carina Gommers - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER Europe LLP
Annick Mottet Haugaard - Lydian
Louis Puts - LMBD
Marius Schneider - Cruyplants Eloy Wagemans & Partners
Olivier Vrins - ALTIUS
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Issue 70