Benelux: Agencies

Legal practice in the Benelux agencies remains stable, with practitioners across Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg adapting to the changes introduced by the EU Trademarks Directive (2015/2436/EU) and relishing the new opportunities they have brought. One of the main hot topics has been digitalisation; lawyers have been discussing the potential issues that could arise out of areas such as artificial intelligence and are working closely with entities exploring their options in this area. Additionally, the law firm market is witnessing slow but gradual change, as litigation outfits begin to integrate prosecution into their offerings, thus increasing the pressure on traditional agencies to diversify.

Firms

ABCOR BV

Filing, prosecution and worldwide portfolio management are the bread and butter of contemporary boutique and WTR 1000 newcomer ABCOR. As most team members have previously held in-house positions, the side has an insider’s perspective on business needs and challenges. Leading the nine-person outfit is founder Theo-Willem van Leeuwen: “proactive, reliable and hands-on”, he thinks outside the box to build efficient brand management strategies with the greatest skill and care.

Arnold & Siedsma 

Celebrating its centennial in 2020, “Arnold & Siedsma maintains and defends trademarks around the world quickly and efficiently” through 11 outposts across Europe and a vast international network. Its “supportive, strategic and detail-oriented practitioners go the extra mile as a matter of course and put their clients’ interests first at all times”. Group co-captains Karin Becks and Joop Elzas oversee the global portfolios of Mustad Hoofcare and accountancy group BDO respectively. “Karin is consistently thorough, prompt and has an excellent understanding of the industries she operates in. She always looks to achieve the maximum protection available when filing applications and asks thoughtful questions which open extra pathways to a great solution. Karin is a person of great integrity and warmth, and has a way of making everyone feel included.” Elzas likewise receives glowing feedback: “He is a great linking pin to any operation, as his experience and sound and concise advice allow decision makers to move quickly. He is a great strategic thinker with fantastic connections too.” Oppositions ace Sandra Bauwens “gives pragmatic, cost-effective guidance with a view to providing strategic and realistic input that adds to the overall picture. She does not sit on the fence and her advice is commercially relevant and timely”.

Chiever

IP consultancy Chiever has established itself as counsel of choice for Dutch multinationals seeking thorough landscape analyses for brand ideation, robust protection for marks and favourable results in oppositions. Inbound international instructions have also been on the rise – not least thanks to its tailored approach, fixed fee billing and innovative online platforms. Two of its founders, Bas Kist and Volkert Teding van Berkhout, have each spent about three decades in the game and have the chops to show for it. A renowned author and lecturer on IP, Kist is always on top of the latest legal developments; while van Berkhout hits his stride coordinating sweeping portfolios. The intersection of marketing and law is a sweet spot for Maria-Gemma Huijnen, a seasoned pro when it comes to worldwide prosecution.

De Clercq & Partners 

De Clercq & Partners’ first-class, commercially oriented offering garners effusive praise from patrons. “I am delighted with the diligent, high-quality and reasonably priced service we received,” reports one. “It has been instrumental in creating the right IP structure for our company, which will undoubtedly boost our long-term competitiveness and business sustainability.” The ensemble has recently bolstered its local presence through a third office in Hasselt, enhanced its internal systems and implemented a bespoke online portal through which users can manage their intangible assets in real time. Division spearhead Joost Muylle has won many fans in the automotive and food and beverage industries: “One of his most impressive skills is his feeling for entrepreneurship and ability to explain complex matters in a practical way. He is a true expert with a pragmatic approach and any discussion with him reaches a higher level. Kind and dynamic, Joost really cares about his clients and is the ideal sparring partner for complicated files.”

Dennemeyer – The IP Group

With 21 offices across six continents and an exhaustive menu of prosecution services, Dennemeyer is the perfect partner for around-the-clock brand protection. It consistently invests in improving and refining its cutting-edge software systems to make for a streamlined, user-friendly experience. On the ground in Luxembourg is the “pragmatic” Olivier Lombardo, who “perfectly marries his business understanding with his knowledge of intellectual property”. He is a repository of trust for brand owners in the automobile, fashion and food-processing sectors.

GEVERS

“A household name for trademark prosecution, GEVERS has a sterling reputation which precedes it.” Its 250 practitioners provide full-bodied support to over 6,000 clients in multiple languages through a network of offices across Belgium and France; while dedicated China and US desks have overseas briefs on lock. The versatile Benjamin Gevers makes light work of challenging mandates and is a tenacious enforcer in the fight against fakes. Joining him in the WTR 1000 this year is portfolio management wizard Johan Dedeckel, who makes it his mission to chart the most cost-effective route to total protection; he is also chairman of the Benelux Association of Trademark and Design Law.

HGF Ltd 

“The amount of knowledge at HGF is impeccable and its advice is always up to date, hands-on and pragmatic, with a view to keeping costs low. Its team is flexible and open minded, all while clearing tasks at a rapid pace and keeping an eye on long-term consequences.” The pan-European outfit has enjoyed significant momentum lately, expanding into Dublin and Bern and completing a merger that has extended its reach into Germany and Austria. The Dutch practice is also humming, thanks in no small part to the sterling efforts of all-rounders Alexander Hagen, Kasper Radstake and Pieter de Ruijter. “Alexander stands out for his genuine, business-like approach; he acts as a consultant with a keen sense for economical strategies, while advising on IP matters more broadly. He is a savvy and bright practitioner who is super-approachable and great at building long-lasting relationships.” A favourite in the fashion industry for his “informal, quick and concise way of working”, Kasper is “knowledgeable, reliable and a joy to collaborate with”. De Ruijter “always brings a positive vibe and his guidance on strategic matters is essential. He is really approachable, clear in his communication and fully involved in his cases”.

Kirkpatrick

Nimble boutique Kirkpatrick has all the tools and resources needed to safeguard intangible assets to the hilt. Never content merely to file by rote, the entrepreneurial troop takes the time and care to build valuable portfolios and enhance business strategies so that brands can survive and thrive into the future. Chief executive officer Lidy-Anne Jeswiet is the first port of call for interested parties.

Knijff Trademark Attorneys

The talented practitioners at Knijff dispense clear, incisive counsel with a cosmopolitan touch. Positioning themselves as integral partners rather than external providers, they get right to the heart of each issue to secure the optimal outcome for clients; while a first-rate network of foreign associates gives them enviable geographical reach. Prosecution maestros Annelies Hart and Ellen Gevers can tease out the knots of even the most convoluted briefs. Hart has a loyal following among brand-rich Dutch companies; while Gevers imparts the lessons distilled from her adroit handling of complex matters through numerous high-profile speaking opportunities.

Marks & Clerk

“A strong contender for filing, prosecution and opposition instructions in the European Union”, Marks & Clerk stands out for its “top-tier services and analyses that are to-the-point, timely and brimming with insight. Another plus point is its competitive pricing”. At the helm of its Luxembourg branch – one of 17 offices in an expansive network – is the dextrous Martin Gutwillinger. “One of the best lawyers in the field, Martin communicates clearly, has an open-minded approach and a friendly nature – all of which makes him a pleasure to work with.”

Merk-Echt BV

The judicious advice dispensed by dynamic and agile Merk-Echt is underpinned by a holistic approach to brands. Highly rated for its prosecution capabilities, it often ranks among the busiest filers in the region, while also managing large portfolios with a deft touch. Entrepreneurs and multinationals alike flock to Patrick Hoefsmit, who has a hawkish eye for identifying clients’ most valuable assets and the most systematic way to achieve their commercial goals.

NLO 

There is no shortage of A-grade instructions at NLO Shieldmark, which continues on its inexorable upward trajectory following its recent acquisition of Markenizer. “We were so happy with its performance that we made the decision to move our whole portfolio to NLO,” enthuses one satisfied client. “It has the most amazing systems in place and makes the whole process so easy and smooth, which allows us to concentrate our efforts on complex cases worth fighting for.” Managing partner Jeroen Cornelis is a Benelux and European trademark attorney who brings peace of mind to patrons through his business-focused mindset and polished performances in opposition proceedings. Global portfolios are managed without a hitch by Marlous Stal-Hilders, whose smooth negotiation skills also bring IP-rich deals to a successful close. “Masja van der Galiën and Milca Graver-de Looper are two of the best attorneys I have ever worked with,” reports one peer. “They are responsive, hands-on and get straight down to business.” Rounding off the troop is Florence Tordoir: “meticulous, detail-oriented and practical”, she specialises in plotting worldwide registration plans and implementing them to perfection.

Novagraaf 

“The practitioners at Novagraaf work together efficiently, reply to questions and requests quickly, and – most importantly – think alongside their customers. They carry everything out in in a cost-effective way, following thoughtful and commercially driven strategies. They also have an intuitive client management system.” The global agency recently joined forces with PAVIS to create a hybrid IP provider, NovumIP, which presents patrons with a novel IP management system. In Belgium, managing director Ingrid Mennens keeps things firing on all cylinders and leverages global connections to add maximum value for rights holders and their portfolios. WTR 1000 newcomer Frederik Jocqué is “eager to learn about his clients’ businesses and their strategic vision so he can fully implement them when providing advice. He is an excellent sparring partner and takes both long and short-term goals into account, which makes for productive discussions”. He has lately been tending to the portfolio of Lotus Bakeries. The Dutch team of all-stars comprises Bart Schweitzer, Monique Granneman, Gerard van Hulst and Helma van de Langenberg. “Bart’s absolute understanding of the portfolios he works on means that his advice comes from what he determines is best for the company, rather than what is easiest to execute. He is absolutely trustworthy, remarkably approachable and dedicated – a great person to have by your side.” Domain names and collective marks are fortes for the versatile Granneman, another addition to the guide this year. Transactional specialists van Hulst and van de Langenberg are always on the ball – the former has spent more than three decades helping multinationals to reap maximum reward on their IP investments, while van de Langenberg strives to find win-win outcomes in all scenarios.

Office Freylinger 

Top-notch and modern firm, Office Freylinger has an impressive roster of international brands, which have relied on its services since it opened its doors in 1996. With an unstinting commitment to quality, its highly trained, multilingual professionals knock it out of the park on all instructions. Driving force Olivier Laidebeur is a trusted ally of prestigious names in the software and luxury goods industries, thanks to his invaluable in-house expertise. The deputy director of the trademark division, Marie-Christine Simon thrives in international settings and keeps the plates spinning on a dizzying number of mandates without ever losing sight of deadlines or budgets.

Turnstone BV

“Efficient, timely and communicative” is the consensus on contemporary outfit Turnstone. It views IP through a resolutely commercial lens, ensuring not only that clients’ business objectives are met, but also that it adds value wherever possible through carefully crafted strategies. This approach chimes with a litany of prominent Dutch players, including Nederlandse Loterij, the largest lottery organisation in the Netherlands; IT company Coosto, which has captured market share in more than 200 countries worldwide; and listed tech company Nedap. Fully immersed in the world of intellectual property, head honcho Peter van der Wees has amassed a wealth of knowledge on the subject and shares his wisdom with the next generation through lecturing. Michiel Haegens and Merel Kamp “have a truly modern way of working: they think about the big picture and really know how to achieve international protection”. The pair are assisting flourishing lifestyle company A Little Lovely Company with its branding plans and portfolio management, as well as in enforcement scenarios.

VO Patents & Trademarks 

With more than a century in the business of brands behind it, VO has done much to help develop the regional IP landscape into what it is today. Having seen and done it all, it combines immaculate filings with astute brand management and a shrewd tactical approach to opposition proceedings. Noëlle Wolfs and Maaike Witteman Snoeck regularly team up to devise successful global prosecution plans for dynamic companies such as plant-based starch supplier Meelunie and auto parts manufacturer Punch Powertrain; Wolfs also has custody of Merck’s Benelux portfolio and safeguards the Hello Kitty character for Sanrio in enforcement scenarios. Witteman Snoeck brings unique industry insight to the table from her time in-house at Sara Lee – she knows exactly what the C-suite is looking for and delivers every time.

Other recommended experts

Bakker & Verkuijl co-founder Eric Bakker is as well versed in local policies and procedures as in the regimes of far-flung jurisdictions, and is thus a potent partner on the world stage. The wraparound solutions he devises come informed with insight gleaned over three decades at the IP coalface. At EQUIPP, Arlette Molenaar is “one of the best trademark agents in the Benelux. Her work is as good as it gets and she always delivers as agreed. She dispenses with the legalese and speaks to clients on a level, while providing clear-cut conclusions”. The agile Mélanie Pellissard of Lecomte & Partners effortlessly guides rights holders through trademark, design and domain name matters.

Individuals