Benelux: Belgium

There have been no earth-shattering changes in Belgian trademark practice recently, although new administrative nullity proceedings are due to be introduced at the Benelux Office of Intellectual Property (BOIP) by 2019 as a result of the latest EU trademark directive. While local practitioners report a slight slowing of Benelux work in favour of pan-European filings, oppositions and litigation, Belgian practitioners need not lose out. With a reputation for being savvy in EU law and procedures, local experts are ideally placed to benefit from a shift towards a continent-wide approach to intellectual property. The country’s trademark services marketplace remains relatively stable, but a move towards law firms offering prosecution services – although a less pronounced trend than in the Netherlands – is discernible.

Firms

  • ALTIUS
  • HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
  • NautaDutilh
  • Van Innis & Delarue 
  • Allen & Overy LLP
  • Bird & Bird LLP
  • Fieldfisher LLP
  • Simont Braun
  • Baker McKenzie
  • CAPE IP Law
  • Crowell & Moring LLP
  • Lydian

Allen & Overy LLP

World-renowned general service firm Allen & Overy is a force to be reckoned with across the Benelux trademark market, where it has a presence in each jurisdiction; the recent appointment of two new partners – one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands – suggests that its focus in the area is only increasing. Especially prized for its savvy transactional work, the team in Brussels also packs a punch in contentious matters; it “has the virtues of a leading international firm, working in a slick, modern way and taking a holistic approach, integrating different elements of a brief effectively”. One of the country’s “most well-known and trusted practitioners”, chair of the Benelux Council of Intellectual Property and the firm’s former global head of intellectual property, Geert Glas is the mainstay of the Belgian practice. The 25-year veteran has acted in a number of milestone trademark cases and has shepherded many high-value deals to close; he represents Intel in high-stakes disputes regarding key marks and recently assisted Kharis Capital in obtaining the rights to open the first Burger King restaurants in Belgium and Luxembourg.

ALTIUS

“Omnipresent in major cases”, ALTIUS is “way ahead of the pack when it comes to brand rights disputes. Its brilliant team has a critical mass of expertise; it combines deep academic knowledge with honed courtroom skills to produce great outcomes. Its practitioners are also very good at reaching favourable settlements”. Paul Maeyaert is one of Belgium’s foremost IP lawyers, drawing a torrent of praise from clients and peers: “He is the very best and deserves to be in gold. Maeyaert is tenacious and creative in court, a very credible and persuasive advocate. A walking encyclopaedia of trademark law, he nevertheless takes a broad commercial view of litigation.” Maeyaert recently achieved success for Mitsubishi in a crucial parallel trade conflict relating to the question of de-branding – a matter which has now been referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Further, Omega Pharma is instructing him in a number of cases before the General Court of the European Union and the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Board of Appeals. Another expert enforcer is the “excellent” Olivier Vrins, an authority on anti-counterfeiting and geographical indications. He “has a lot of experience and is very effective in customs work; he is very incisive and writes brilliantly”.

Baker McKenzie

With cutting-edge anti-counterfeiting and prosecution systems, as well as a peerless international network, Baker McKenzie is a compelling choice for household names requiring seamless cross-border brand management. IP commercialisation is a strong suit for the team in Antwerp, which also handles must-win disputes with aplomb; it wins plaudits for “the experience of its practitioners, the excellent calibre of its advice and its efficient implementation of strategies”. The lynchpin of the local group is Koen De Winter, a cultivated litigator with 37 years’ practice under his belt and an assiduous campaigner in the fight against fakes. The business-savvy professional scored a win for British American Tobacco in trademark infringement and unfair competition suits against Torrekens Tobacco and Heintz Van Landewyck, in which he made the novel argument that continued infringement was an unfair market practice. De Winter has also been kept busy in parallel imports disputes for Roche Diagnostics.

Bird & Bird LLP

Over the past decade Bird & Bird has developed one of the finest soft IP practices in Belgium. Boasting holistic commercial law knowledge, its local team surpasses itself in trademark-rich transactions and operates skilfully at the intersection of IP, contract and unfair competition law; its world-class lawyers also tackle intractable disputes and dispense high-end strategic advice. Formidable enforcer and sage licensing counsellor Jean-Christophe Troussel is the driving force behind the practice’s success: “He is extremely knowledgeable and can be called on for the most complex questions. Very practical, he knows exactly what the in-house lawyer needs and delivers on it.” Troussel recently won a judgment on behalf of Anheuser-Busch InBev, forcing Aldi to change the packaging of its Buval beer; he has also been defending Facebook and Instagram’s brand rights against a deluge of applications for similar trademarks.

CAPE IP Law

Ghent-based CAPE IP Law makes its sophomore appearance in the WTR 1000 this year, having consolidated its place among Belgium’s elite trademark firms since it launched in 2016. The compact boutique provides assured guidance and cogent advocacy when contentious circumstances arise. Its flexible, personal approach has won it admirers among domestic brand owners: “Its team works efficiently, and gives us fast and complete answers to our questions. It also has a great international network.” Polished litigator Patricia Cappuyns has granular knowledge of IP and unfair competition law and is unflappable before Belgian and EU courts. Her fellow founding partner Véronique Pede is a 20-year veteran with a deep understanding of soft IP and advertising matters; she has recently been involved in infringement litigation for Urban Crop Solutions and administrative proceedings before the EUIPO for Geldof against its namesake.

Crowell & Moring LLP

Crowell & Moring handles thorny brand rights disputes with consummate skill: “It functions as an elite IP litigation shop – of which there are very few in Belgium – and can handle the most complex cases, always bringing creative and persuasive arguments before the court.” Media, entertainment, food and fashion sage Jan-Diederik Lindemans is another pillar of the firm, with a flair for injunctive relief proceedings and pre-trial discovery. His recent work includes opposition proceedings for Peter Vanhecke and infringement litigation for Rave Nation. Pharmaceuticals whiz Christian Dekoninck “has a broad business perspective and comes up with inventive solutions to problems. He has expansive knowledge, particularly of non-traditional trademarks, and can convey difficult concepts in a simple way; his documents are wonderful and he is compelling in court. He is also responsive and works quickly, but always to a high standard”. Dekoninck is representing Wings Software before the General Court in EU litigation regarding the word mark ‘ASNA WINGS’; he is also acting for fashion brand Davit Razon in a string of EUIPO and BOIP oppositions. Versatile IP litigator Kristof Roox possesses fine-grained knowledge of life sciences and has dispatched a number of recent anti-counterfeiting mandates with alacrity.

Fieldfisher LLP

Fieldfisher rises to the silver band this year following high praise from clients and fellow professionals. Supporting the firm’s London office in prosecution matters, the Brussels ensemble, spearheaded by Stijn Debaene and Hakim Haouideg, shines brightest in must-win trademark litigation and brand commercialisation. The duo “are just the type of soft-IP lawyers I have been looking for in Belgium for years”, comments one foreign associate. “They are energetic, efficient and can think on their feet. More importantly, they are brilliantly creative and tenacious.” Debaene and Haouideg work hand in hand to protect an impressive roster of well-known brands: they provide percipient counsel to Telenet, Base Company, Playboy and star footballer Maroune Fellaini; they also recently reached a settlement on behalf of Vitality, following proceedings against Partena, and won an infringement verdict from the Brussels Commercial Court for August Storck, whose trademark had been encroached by Leonidas. “A sharp litigator, a fighter and very intelligent”, Debaene garners plaudits as an individual: “He is excellent – technically sound, astute and nice to work with, he explains difficult matters in an understandable way. He pays attention to detail, and strikes the right balance between theoretical rigour and common-sense pragmatism.” “Very knowledgeable and an essential contact for French-speaking cases”, Haouideg has a penchant for online IP and e-commerce issues: “He is a pleasure to work with, is always available, and looks for compromises with adversaries while always being firm on the key points.”

HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER

Ascending to the gold tier this year, HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER occupies an exalted position in the Belgian trademark market; revered for its top-class specialist litigation, the pan-European boutique’s local team is increasingly at the forefront of strategic portfolio management, too. “Its recent achievements are very impressive and the quality of its work is excellent; the firm’s practitioners are sharp and really know what they are talking about when it comes to intellectual property. Their responsiveness and global thinking is striking, as is their hard work and professional ethos.” Leading the department is Carl De Meyer, a multi-talented IP lawyer who “masters his cases, in law and in fact, and shows great strategic insight”. He handles mega-portfolios with poise: Philip Morris and Coca-Cola entrust him with cross-border prosecution and oppositions. De Meyer also recently defeated Zimmer + Rhode, which had launched an infringement suit against his client Hunter Douglas. Working brilliantly across the contentious/non-contentious divide, Carina Gommers is “a top-notch lawyer who handles matters with efficiency and engages deeply with the practical and theoretical aspects of IP law. Her knowledge of various industry sectors makes her an invaluable counsel”. Managing SuperGroup’s Benelux portfolio with a steady hand, she has also secured a favourable settlement for Evolution of Smooth, following infringement litigation against Omega Pharma, and acts for Philips in international proceedings against copycat producers. A leading anti-counterfeiting hawk, Gommers was successful in a criminal suit against fakers of Gilead’s Truvada medicine, from whom she obtained substantial damages.

Lydian

Most renowned for its crack anti-counterfeiting work, Lydian has a broad-ranging IP practice which finds favour with domestic and foreign brand owners: the “excellent” team is lauded for its “clear, concise and commercial advice on a range of Belgian trademark matters”. Continuing to bolster its strength in depth – the firm appointed a new partner and associate to the IP department last year – Lydian can handle weighty mandates with composure. Heading the team is Annick Mottet Haugaard who brings brand imitators to book with great effectiveness: “Excellent in criminal and civil counterfeiting complaints, she is very savvy and her contacts in customs and police authorities are second to none.” With Gucci, Chanel, Ferrari and Swatch seeking out her services, Mottet Haugaard also recently acted in opposition proceedings for luxury watch brand Breitling, and has been helping Turkish food company ETI to protect its brand across Benelux.

NautaDutilh

Full service outfit NautaDutilh has a stellar IP practice across the whole of Benelux. Its Belgian set-up has a glittering reputation for complicated trademark litigation before national and EU courts; drawing on the firm’s broader expertise, it outclasses rivals where intellectual property intersects with regulatory, data protection or competition law matters. The local lawyers “are thorough and well-reasoned, and have outstanding technical know-how. They are professional but tough, which makes them effective”. “A real gentleman who has perfectly mastered trademark law”, Philippe Péters is the managing partner in the Brussels office. “He is extremely distinguished and knows his way around a courtroom; he is a good communicator and pleads very brilliantly.” His protégé Tanguy de Haan continues to cement his place in his profession’s upper echelons – having made partner in 2016, he climbs into WTR 1000’s silver tier this year following acclaim from the marketplace. The “first-class” litigator is “smart, talented and deeply knowledgeable about soft intellectual property. He is also completely dedicated to his cases, giving timely and comprehensive advice”. He acts for the International Trademark Association (INTA) in disputes before the ECJ and the General Court. The other foundation stone of the practice is Florence Verhoestraete, a “commercially aware and solutions-driven professional, with a great deal of IP experience. She is very impressive in trial: understated but convincing, she has the ear of the court when arguing and is a well-respected opponent. Verhoestraete is always prepared and goes into great depth”.

Simont Braun

Sterling litigation shop Simont Braun solves the most intricate brand rights puzzles, operating with finesse before the EU courts and the EUIPO. “Its excellent team has a classical approach, in the best sense of the word: its lawyers have brilliant minds – they are erudite, well-considered and thorough – and are consummate professionals.” Cultivated advocate Emmanuel Cornu “has an incisive knowledge of trademark law” and has co-authored an authoritative textbook on the subject. He recently represented Blackberry in several oppositions before the BOIP, and has won a number of favourable decisions for LVMH and Christian Dior before Belgian courts; the versatile lawyer is also involved in customs seizures for Yves Saint Laurent and advises SFR on its Benelux portfolio strategy. Flanking him is Eric De Gryse, a “superb all-round soft IP lawyer, who combines a strong academic grounding with polished litigation skills”; he is a go-to professional for geographical indications and chairs the corresponding INTA committee. With Cornu, De Gryse represents SPA Monopole in a number of disputes and has defended Caterpillar in its wrangles with Tigercat. Heineken is another major client for him; he recently removed one million lookalike bottles from African markets.

Van Innis & Delarue 

Exclusively focused on intellectual property, compact boutique Van Innis & Delarue punches well above its weight in bet-the-company trademark disputes; the gold-tiered two-partner outfit has no problem grappling with the most demanding landmark cases – especially in the luxury, fashion and designer goods sectors, where it is a staunch defender of innovators’ rights. “A star litigator and soft-IP encyclopaedia”, Thierry Van Innis is “dynamic, creative and very convincing; he is very sharp, well-reasoned and has good perception of what the court will accept as an argument. All of this reflects his long record of practice.” Van Innis helped Christian Louboutin to secure its EU ‘red sole’ trademark – and defend it in the ECJ; he is currently fighting off an invalidity motion by Van Haren Schoenen and pursuing infringement claims against several German shoe manufacturers. Other recent highlights include his successful defence of Wrangler before the EUIPO and his enforcement of Levi Strauss’s ‘arcuate’ mark in a dispute against Hema; he also won €1.25 million damages from The New Yorker for the famous fashion brand. His fellow enforcer Dieter Delarue shares many of the same qualities, according to clients: “He is an aggressive and brilliant lawyer – very independent-minded and logical.” Delarue is presently acting for OrbusNeich in high-stakes litigation against St Jude Medical and representing the Tomorrowland festival in a crucial dispute before the Brussels Commercial Court.

Other recommended experts

“A great lawyer with a keen grasp of advertising, media and trademark issues”, Tom Heremans is also “very approachable and quality-minded”; the managing partner at CMS DeBacker is instructed by major brands which find themselves in must-win disputes. Flip Petillion excels in weighty cross-border spats and, well rounded in his approach to dispute resolution, he is a dab hand when it comes to negotiations and arbitration. Moreover, he is at the cutting edge of domain name work, having handled online matters since the mid-1990s; his Competing for the Internet is a major text on the topic. The former Crowell & Moring star recently established PETILLION, a fresh new boutique set-up. “A very smart and experienced soft IP and unfair competition counsellor”, three-decade veteran Louis Puts can be found at LMBD Prioux; he is widely celebrated for his prowess in anti-counterfeiting briefs. Trademark maven Marius Schneider of IPvocate, the IP department of CEW & Partners works adeptly across the brand lifecycle; his stellar work with customs agencies is particularly praiseworthy, while an unmatched network in Africa is another stand-out feature.

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
  • Eric De Gryse - Simont Braun
  • Tanguy de Haan - NautaDutilh
  • Carl De Meyer - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
  • Koen De Winter - Baker McKenzie
  • Stijn Debaene - Fieldfisher LLP
  • Dieter Delarue - Van Innis & Delarue 
  • Carina Gommers - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
  • Hakim Haouideg - Fieldfisher LLP
  • Annick Mottet Haugaard - Lydian
  • Flip Petillion - PETILLION
  • Jean-Christophe Troussel - Bird & Bird LLP
  • Florence Verhoestraete - NautaDutilh
  • Patricia Cappuyns - CAPE IP Law
  • Christian Dekoninck - Crowell & Moring LLP
  • Tom Heremans - CMS DeBacker
  • Jan-Diederik Lindemans - Crowell & Moring LLP
  • Véronique Pede - CAPE IP Law
  • Louis Puts - LMBD Prioux
  • Kristof Roox - Crowell & Moring LLP
  • Marius Schneider - IPvocate, the IP department of CEW & Partners

Individuals: anti-counterfeiting

  • Carl De Meyer - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
  • Carina Gommers - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
  • Annick Mottet Haugaard - Lydian
  • Louis Puts - LMBD Prioux
  • Marius Schneider - IPvocate, the IP department of CEW & Partners
  • Olivier Vrins - ALTIUS