Q: Can you tell us about your firm (eg, size, practice focuses, key individuals and geographical locations)?
A: Arnold & Siedsma is a full-service provider in IP practice. With seven offices in the Netherlands, two in Belgium and one each in Germany and Switzerland, the 60-strong outfit comprises trademark attorneys, patent attorneys and a litigation team. Karin Becks and Joop Elzas head the trademark group, comprising attorneys Sandra Bauwens, Nicole van Roon, Elka Stegeman, Robbert Keij and Loes van den Winkel and a professional supporting staff. They focus on all aspects of trademark practice in Benelux and the European Union and offer strategic advice on availability searches, trademark filing, prosecution and watching services (including custom watching), oppositions, cancellation procedures before the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property and the EUIPO and all types of conflict work. Having an in-house litigation team ensures that cases make a smooth transition from the trademark team to the litigation team and vice versa, if necessary.
Q: The firm specialises in a range of IP work areas. How does that benefit its trademark professionals and, by extension, their clients?
A: The firm does not just specialise in trademarks, but also in patents, designs and copyright. Further, it has a team of litigators. It is widely known that there is an overlap in IP rights – there is no sharp border between patents and designs or designs and trademarks. Therefore, we explore the best suitable strategy for our clients with a broader view than just trademarks. As a result, the trademark attorneys learn from IP issues raised in other IP fields and our patent group benefits from the IP awareness created by the trademark attorneys. By having a litigation team, there is a constant exchange of relevant case law between the litigators and the trademark team.
Q: What are the keys steps to success for your trademark ensemble?
A: Involvement and teamwork: we care!
We believe in excellence, which we achieve by combining decades of experience in IP practice and industry with youthful spirit and the ability to stay sharp, focused and dedicated to our clients’ needs. Speed and accuracy, straightforward communication, maximum attention to individual needs and direct and easy contact with the case manager are key elements in our practice. Further, we stand for quality and clarity, irrespective of the nature, urgency and complexity of the question or case.
Teams are built from all disciplines in order to serve our clients in the best way possible and to bring the highest added value to their business. Further, our trademark attorneys meet at least once a week to discuss pending cases from each practice, which results in stronger strategic advice. Last but not least, we dare to say no if this serves our clients’ interest.
Q: Is the job of the trademark attorney becoming easier or harder – and why?
A: New technologies have changed the way in which companies communicate with customers and how consumers are exposed to brands. Nowadays trademarks and the laws surrounding them are more aligned with technological developments. The same applies to us: we embrace new challenges and have become business partners for whom pragmatic and strategic advice is a key part of the core business.
Q: The firm utilises an extensive network in a bid to offer clients the ability to register their marks globally. What qualities do you look for in the law firms that you admit to this network?
A: In 2020 we will celebrate our 100th anniversary. Over the years we have built a strong and reliable worldwide network – in 2015 we became the first large Dutch IP agency with foreign offices to be ISO 9001 certified. This certificate is valid for all of our offices in the Netherlands, Belgium and abroad and reflects the way in which our workflows and processes are secured. In this respect, our key features are quality, speed and clarity and these are what we insist on in our network of agents.
Left to right: Karin Becks (partner), Joop Elzas (partner) and Sandra Bauwens (attorney)
Q: How are client demands changing and what impact has that had on your practice?
A: The world is moving at such a fast pace, with new and better ways to communicate developing all the time. This has resulted in a demand for trademark attorneys who are curious, think outside of the box and want to act as a champion for clients in order to create the highest added value for their business. This goes far beyond searching for or filing trademarks – clients want an attorney who is involved in and takes care of their business, sees the broader picture and advises on how to get the most out of their intellectual property.
Q: What challenges are being raised by clients most frequently at the moment?
A: We live in a world in which we instantly have access to information at all times of the day, which means that clients may expect an instant response to or immediate action on their requests. We always try, and in most cases succeed, to maintain this speed but this is simply not always possible. The main challenge is to ensure that we deliver the swift responses that our clients desire. The next obstacle is in the financial realm – combining high-quality work at a reasonable price along with the need for speed is what we focus on and succeed in delivering as a practice.
Q: In order to remain successful, how do trademark teams at leading attorney firms need to evolve?
A: It is important to embrace change and experience it as an exciting prospect. We must continuously develop our legal practice, but we also need to experience what is going on outside and immerse ourselves in it. This, combined with a critical view of what we are doing, the way that we are doing it and whether this meets our clients’ wishes, enables us to stay aligned with their needs.
Q: The firm website offers a range of legal updates and articles – how important is it for individual practitioners to be thought leaders?
A: We like to share our opinions and ideas with our peers and publish legal updates and articles to create greater awareness of IP issues.
By discussing case law on a frequent basis and publishing updates and thought leadership pieces, attorneys are encouraged to think outside of the box, which improves their practice and benefits clients in turn. We work in such a way that we never take anything for granted and we highlight the importance of rethinking every single case.
Q: Finally, what advice would you give to young practitioners looking to pursue a career in trademarks?
A: Do it and do it passionately! But make sure your view is broader than trademark practice. You need to know and understand your clients’ business and what is important for each individual in the boardroom. This means looking further than the marketing department – other departments will also be invested. Hone knowledge and skills beyond those in IP law. The trademark attorney of the future will have to present themselves as a sparring partner for the decision makers who want their business to benefit from IP protection. With a proper strategy, IP protection will bring in a lot more than costs!