The revision of the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property and the implementation of the EU Trademarks Directive remain the key talking points among the Belgian IP community. The changes have presented several new opportunities for brand owners – particularly in the area of non-traditional marks – which have been met with considerable enthusiasm. Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) Director General Ragnar Gustafsson has been working on his promise to modernise IP services and further the centralisation of IP-related disputes before the courts. Another hot topic is the liability of e-commerce platforms for copyright and trademark infringement, as new case law continues to emerge in this area and practitioners rethink their enforcement plans to tackle novel scenarios. The general consensus is that trademark disputes are on the rise and the Belgian market is becoming increasingly attractive for high-end brands, resulting in more work across the board. Consequently, three new firms break into the rankings for the first time this year.
Allen & Overy LLP
Full-service giant Allen & Overy combines enviable global reach with a fine-grained knowledge of local laws and policies to dispense quick, clear and comprehensive advice to an array of clients across the world. The Belgian squad has caught the eye of top industry names such as Jack Daniel’s and Intel, which rely on it in dispute resolution and enforcement scenarios. Taking the lead on both is “one of the brightest and best-known litigators in the country”, Geert Glas. He leverages abundant experience before the Belgian, Benelux and European courts to deliver superb outcomes, and lately has been curating Nikon’s European anti-counterfeiting strategy as well as educating customs officers and training local counsel. Working alongside him, Edward Taelman hits his stride in the entertainment and consumer-related sectors, where he deftly traverses the contentious/non-contentious divide. The IP division runs smoothly under the guidance of head honcho Peter Van Dyck, who excels at getting high-rolling licensing and other transactional agreements inked, particularly in the technology space.
A leading firm in Belgium, independent full-service ALTIUS proves itself to be indispensable in complex and ground-breaking trademark litigation. It recently introduced new cross-department practice groups, with specific industry focuses, cementing the outfit's status as a force to be reckoned with in multifaceted disputes. Head honcho "Olivier Vrins is an established legal voice in the region and is looked upon not only by his clients, but also by his peers as an expert in the field. He is a true facilitator of conflict resolution through his cordial and balanced approach." As one foreign associate enthuses: “Olivier's strong relationships in the global intellectual property community really set him apart as does his encyclopaedic knowledge of the law. He advises on proactive and reactive strategies, considers the goals and needs of the brands he works with which ensures they receive practical advice in a timely fashion."
“Baker McKenzie Belgium provides reliable and thorough advice in a professional but accessible manner,” enthuses one patron. “It quickly grasps the business environment in which a company operates, while easily adapting to the client’s way of working and its commercial interests. A real plus is its ability to represent us on a pan-European and international scale through its widespread presence and global partners.” Department lead and hotshot litigator Koen De Winter recently secured a crucial win for Castart Clothing in one of the first appeal proceedings heard before the Benelux Court of Justice, as the possibility to do so was only introduced in mid-2018. Assisting him on this matter was consumer goods and retail sector whizz Michaël De Vroey: “He really knows how to dig deep to find arguments that cover every angle. His comprehensive and pragmatic approach, along with his intimate understanding of the subject matter, ensures great results – and within budget, too.”
Bird & Bird LLP
“Bird & Bird plays an important role in the success of a brand. In addition to providing global in-house teams with reliable, clear and practical advice, it supports them in hard-hitting disputes. It has a thorough understanding of business needs and an impressive commercial outlook.” The Belgian contingent thrives on cutting-edge mandates – whether in traditionally innovative sectors, such as life sciences and telecommunications, or when tackling the novel challenges of digitalisation. However, there is no limit to its remit, and as a result it enjoys a steady stream of work from A-listers such as Parfums Christian Dior, McCain Alimentaire and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Representing the latter across the brand lifecycle is Jean-Christophe Troussel, who recently appeared before the EUIPO in opposition proceedings relating to its Corona beverage, among others. Not one to rest on his laurels, he brings the same dynamism to his practice, where he consistently seeks to enhance the service on offer. Joining Troussel in the guide this year, Guillaume de Villegas de Clercamp relishes the cut and thrust of litigation and always keeps a keen eye out for commercialisation opportunities.
CAPE IP Law
Based in Ghent, Belgium’s start-up hub, CAPE IP has positioned itself as counsel of choice to entrepreneurs and innovators in need of both effective brand protection strategies and seasoned pros to execute them. Co-captains Patricia Cappuyns and Véronique Pede make a fantastic team and are almost telepathic in their thinking, having worked both opposite and alongside each other throughout their careers. Cappuyns recently flexed her tactical nous in representing Varo Power Tools against industry leader Kärcher in a dispute over the use of the colour yellow, coordinating the matter across three countries. “She consistently delivers top-notch services in a professional and timely manner.” Pede earns praise for her “highly organised and pragmatic approach. She is super-knowledgeable, reliable and wonderful to work with”.
CEW & IPvocate
“The outstanding professionals at CEW & IPvocate are warmly recommended for any trademark matter, but especially for their anti-counterfeiting abilities. Knowledgeable and detail oriented, they consider the most practical and cost-effective way to achieve desired outcomes in the quickest turnaround time.” A repository of trust for myriad blue-chips, the versatile Marius Schneider is admitted to both the Mauritius and Brussels bars, which makes international protection easier to obtain. “One of the world’s best trademark lawyers, he is extremely bright and has a wonderful personality – all of which makes cooperating with him a delight.” “Marius truly understands that companies have tight enforcement budgets; and with counterfeiting a never-ending problem, we have the highest level of trust in his expertise, thoroughness and recommendations for improvements to our overall strategy”.
Crowell & Moring LLP
Those who instruct the Belgian arm of US-headquartered Crowell & Morning can tap into a wealth of international resources – courtesy of further offices in London, Shanghai, Singapore and across the United States – and a vast knowledge base comprising more than 500 lawyers. Its “rigorous and tenacious handling of disputes” has earned it a sterling reputation in critical cross-border mandates and parallel import matters. The first name on the team sheet is Jan-Diederik Lindemans, who has a knack for turning around impossible cases. He has made the media, entertainment, fashion and design industries his own; for example, he recently joined forces with Judith Bussé to assist Delta Light in opposition proceedings, ensuring that it could continue using the REO mark for its best-selling lighting fixtures. “Judith consistently impresses with her passion, attention to detail and flair for litigation strategy. She delves deep into legal analyses, gives practical and budget-conscious advice, and is lovely to work with.” Sharpshooter Kristof Roox “strives for excellence in his work and is really appreciated for his creativity. His vast experience means he can offer not only legal advice, but also procedural guidance, based on his understanding of various courts and individual judges. One of his most impressive skills is advocacy – he pleads exceptionally convincingly and is an asset to any litigation proceedings”. Rounding off the set is Gunther Meyer: “Working with him means you receive complete and exhaustive guidance on any issue that arises. His timely updates and reports on pending matters are another bonus.”
A fresh face in the Belgian market, FENCER makes its first appearance in the WTR 1000 this year but brings familiar faces with it. The new boutique was set up by former ALTIUS practitioner Paul Maeyaert, who delivers wall-to-wall brand protection of the highest calibre. “One of the country’s top litigators”, Maeyaert is “very business-orientated and really fights for clients’ rights. He applies well-thought-out strategies to get the best outcome in each case, while remaining cost-conscious and always considering the sense of urgency”. He is joined by WTR 1000 newcomer Jeroen Muyldermans, a polished litigator who comes into his own in multi-faceted disputes across an array of industries and Daphne Vervaet, whose industry experience at one of the world’s largest FMCG companies shines through in her commercialisation activities.
Strategic portfolio management and tricky contentious briefs are all in a day’s work for global set-up Fieldfisher. It acts for some of the world’s most iconic international brands, including Playboy, as well as leading domestic players such as Telenet and Studio 100. Its recent work for the latter – concerning copyright and trademark infringement resulting from Greenpeace’s use of its Maya the Bee character – attracted significant media attention. Taking the lead on this matter were division spearhead Stijn Debaene and Hakim Haouideg. The media and telecommunications sectors are strongholds for Debaene, who has also been carving himself a niche in sports law, where his transactional prowess is sought out by professional football players and cyclists. The “super-bright” Haouideg thrives in the high-tech realm and is a key contact for domain name disputes and technology transfers too. The duo recently welcomed Serge Flecijn to the fold, who brings over two decades of experience to the table and is a discerning choice for matters concerning geographical indications and denominations of origin.
International player HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER undertakes everything from searching and filing to prosecution, enforcement and anti-counterfeiting “to the highest level possible”. “It is one of the most reliable firms out there, and its attorneys are responsive, super-skilled and clear communicators who dedicate their full attention to the matters at hand.” Trademark, copyright, media and technology law specialist Fabienne Brison draws on this all-encompassing knowledge to devise wraparound strategies and broker IP-rich contracts.
Since opening its doors in 2017, Inteo has generated a real market buzz with its “flexible approach and passion for intellectual property. Its lawyers are among the very best and showcase the highest level of expertise with well-founded advice, while bringing a personal touch to each case”. As a result, the boutique makes its debut in the WTR 1000 this year; as do co-founders Kristof Neefs and Sofie Cubitt. “Their hands-on and practical approach, as well as their diligence and familiarity with numerous legal procedures, ensures technically sound guidance at a great price point.” Neefs and Cubitt recently went out to bat for vitamin and supplement company Solgar Holdings in four parallel procedures before the EU General Court. Another recent highlight for Neefs was a mandate for Darts-IP: he negotiated a licensing agreement that allows BOIP to make its technology available to users of the Benelux trademark system. He also assisted global firm Jones Day as counsel for the shareholders of Darts-IP in due diligence matters pertaining to the company’s sale to Clarivate Analytics.
Holistic, forward-thinking counsel is the order of the day at Janson Baugniet, which has been delighting brand owners with its commercially attuned service for more than seven decades. Nestled at the heart of this business law outfit is an IP team comprised of high-powered litigators whose fluency in at least three languages makes complicated multi-jurisdictional skirmishes a breeze. At the helm, Hans Dhondt is “really personable and a brilliant, hands-on and budget-conscious attorney”. He counsels across the spectrum of brand protection, but pan-European suits are a particular forte; and as the global chair of the IP/IT group of INTERLAW, a global network of over 7,000 lawyers, he knows just where to look when matters take to the world stage.
Best known for its uncompromising anti-counterfeiting campaigns, Lydian is an ideal partner for brand owners seeking robust enforcement plans, superior coordination capabilities and superb value for money. The set is a favourite of celebrated names such as Burberry, Gucci and Paco Rabanne, for which it recently conducted an impressive seizure, clearing over 17,000 fake goods from the market. Leading the charge on this was Annick Mottet Haugaard, who wins plaudits from peers as a “sharp, practical and hands-on lawyer”. With a litany of accomplishments to her name, Mottet Haugaard is a trusted ally for both domestic and international brand owners seeking to establish or entrench their presence in the region. The team also has a percipient take on opposition proceedings, with Olivia Santantonio prevailing for Prada and its Miu Miu mark before the BOIP this year. The WTR 1000 newcomer also has a flair for the fine print of distribution agreements and dispenses honest, business-savvy advice.
A go-to for heavy hitters in the automotive, life science and consumer goods sectors, international outfit NautaDutilh enjoys a glowing reputation not only in Belgium, but across Europe and beyond. The dynamic IT team leverages its geographical reach to provide joined-up advice underpinned by an intuitive understanding of the commercial role of intellectual property – a blend that keeps industry leaders coming back for more. For example, it recently emerged victorious for L’Oréal in a consequential dispute with cosmetics company Guinot, with the CJEU overturning five orders issued by the General Court. The architects behind this success were Philippe Péters and Tanguy de Haan – “gentlemanly lawyers who do not shy away from difficult litigation”. Péters has mastered the law of trademarks; while de Haan is “a walking encyclopaedia of extensive case law”. Fellow courtroom ace Florence Verhoestraete also garners effusive praise from peers: “I truly believe she is one of the best. She is extremely intelligent, sharp, strategic and a magician before the courts – everything a good lawyer should be.”
In the words of one satisfied patron: “When instructing PETILLION, you get the flexibility and fees of a local boutique, but with the international connections that come with practising at a global level.” The multilingual outfit provides a 360-degree trademark offering, with domain name disputes something of a specialty. Embodying this impressive breadth is Flip Petillion, who has won the enduring loyalty of numerous high-profile clients: as an example, he has counselled risk management consultancy LMI Group on all aspects of brand protection since its inception. The founding partner has spent three decades in the game and has played an active role in the shaping of national legislation. Following his lead, WTR 1000 inductees Diégo Noesen and Jan Janssen never take their eyes off the ball. Noesen handles delicate dispute resolution matters with a sure hand; while Janssen “is the right partner for complex global trademark litigations – especially when it comes to the digital economy and other intangible assets”.
Adroitly navigating the Belgian and European IP spaces, formidable contentious shop Simont Braun has the instinct and tenacity to secure the right results before the courts and at the EUIPO. The squad recently secured a precedent-setting, headline-grabbing decision for Caterpillar at the Belgian Supreme Court in an action relating to its CAT mark. This win was masterminded by Emmanuel Cornu and Eric De Gryse. “A leader in the field”, Cornu is frequently asked to assist various councils and government bodies on trademark questions, while also holding his own positions of authority within the IP community. De Gryse is a first port of call for brand-rich pharmaceutical, engineering and retail services players. For instance, along with Cornu, he recently assisted HEMA in infringement proceedings brought by Levi Strauss.
Making its firm debut in the rankings this year is Stibbe, a boutique with unique legal insight gained through its position as trusted counsel to the BOIP for over two decades. “The team provides clear, detailed advice and reports on the chances of success for each case and the potential counterarguments. It always keeps clients looped in on progress.” A glittering client roster includes the likes of Huawei, Japan Tobacco International and Abdij van Grimbergen, a Premonstratensian monastery established in 1128 and known for its beer, which is marketed worldwide by Carlsberg. Team captain Ignace Vernimme “demonstrates a clear understanding of multi-layered cases and has the ability to break each one down to come up with a practical, consistent and clear strategy”. The recent arrival of litigator Philippe Campolini has brought further firepower to the set: “Philippe has always been informative, available and quick to offer effective solutions – there is never a second thought about working with him.”
“I am a big fan of Taylor Wessing’s style,” reports one peer. “If you look at its track record and clientele, it is certainly most impressive”. The global firm stands out for its expansive reach and cross-border capabilities, as well as its “talented and experienced lawyers”. It recently brought out the big guns to represent Sandoz in a multi-jurisdictional colour mark case led by Christian Dekoninck. “One of the most strategic, calm and all-round litigators in town, Christian displays extraordinary legal knowledge complemented by great industry insight. He is responsive, analytical in his approach and gives pragmatic advice that considers budgets and each client’s specific requirements. He is a true gentleman and a joy to work with.” Joining Dekoninck in the guide this year is Marie Keup, “a rapid responder when fire breaks out and a thorough, disciplined lawyer with a methodical approach that is also fresh at the same time”. Keup’s ability to advise in English, French and Dutch is another major draw.
Van Innis & Delarue is tipped as “one of the best firms in Europe”: “The breadth of knowledge is truly magnificent, the service is premium quality and its tough litigators will go above and beyond to win a case.” While the set confidently advises high-tech and media companies, it shines brightest when battling it out on behalf of fashion and luxury goods brands. For instance, Thierry Van Innis recently brought the heat for Christian Louboutin and Cartier in enforcement proceedings against Amazon – cases that have opened doors to new concepts of liability, attracting intense media attention as a result. “One of Belgium’s most renowned IP specialists, Van Innis has built an impressive career in the field of intellectual property and is considered the leading lawyer for brand protection across Europe by many.” His right-hand man on the Amazon matters is WTR 1000 newcomer Anthony Van der Planken, a “pragmatic, clever and brilliant trademark lawyer, whose responsive and dedication is striking”: “He is enjoyable to collaborate with, especially on untypical and complex matters. His in-depth and practical knowledge complements Thierry’s theoretical knowledge and hands-on approach.” The triumvirate is completed by co-founder and “fantastic litigator” Dieter Delarue: “He artfully navigates difficult trademark negotiations and has the ear of the court when pleading.”
UK headquartered powerhouse Wiggin is globally renowned for its superb all-round IP capabilities and has been making moves on the Belgian landscape by signing on major players from HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER - Carina Gommers and Carl De Meyer - in 2021. “Carina’s keen insight, great business sense and broad expertise make her an invaluable asset in conflict resolution”; while “Carl is both technically and theoretically outstanding”. “They are simply best in class and the way they think alongside their customers is amazing. They come up with the best solutions by getting into the nitty-gritty, but never lose sight of the bigger picture.” Of particular note is Gommers’ recent election as the European Communities Trademark Association’s second vice president – a testament to her standing in the community.
Other recommended experts
- Emmanuel Cornu - Simont Braun
- Carl De Meyer - Wiggin LLP
- Dieter Delarue - Van Innis & Delarue
- Geert V Glas - Allen & Overy LLP
- Carina Gommers - Wiggin LLP
- Paul Maeyaert - FENCER
- Philippe Péters - NautaDutilh
- Flip Petillion - PETILLION
- Thierry Van Innis - Van Innis & Delarue
- Olivier Vrins - ALTIUS
- Eric De Gryse - Simont Braun
- Tanguy de Haan - NautaDutilh
- Koen De Winter - Baker McKenzie
- Stijn Debaene - Fieldfisher LLP
- Christian Dekoninck - Taylor Wessing
- Hakim Haouideg - Fieldfisher LLP
- Tom Heremans - CMS Belgium
- Jan-Diederik Lindemans - Crowell & Moring LLP
- Annick Mottet Haugaard - Lydian
- Véronique Pede - CAPE IP Law
- Kristof Roox - Crowell & Moring LLP
- Marius Schneider - CEW & IPvocate
- Jean-Christophe Troussel - Bird & Bird LLP
- Peter Van Dyck - Allen & Overy LLP
- Florence Verhoestraete - NautaDutilh
- Christoph Bourgeois - Brantsandpatents
- Fabienne Brison - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Judith Busse - Crowell & Moring LLP
- Philippe Campolini - Stibbe
- Patricia Cappuyns - CAPE IP Law
- Sofie Cubitt - Inteo
- Guillaume de Villegas de Clercamp - Bird & Bird LLP
- Michael De Vroey - Baker McKenzie
- Hans Dhondt - Janson Baugniet
- Rogier Goos - Brantsandpatents
- Jan Janssen - PETILLION
- Marie Keup - Taylor Wessing
- Gunther Meyer - Crowell & Moring LLP
- Olivier Mignolet - Simmons & Simmons LLP
- Jeroen Muyldermans - FENCER
- Kristof Neefs - Inteo
- Diégo Noesen - PETILLION
- Olivia Santantonio - Lydian
- Edward Taelman - Allen & Overy LLP
- Pierre-Yves Thoumsin - Prioux Culot + Partners
- Anthony Van der Planken - Van Innis & Delarue
- Ignace Vernimme - Stibbe
- Daphne Vervaet - Fencer
- Carl De Meyer - Wiggin LLP
- Carina Gommers - Wiggin LLP
- Annick Mottet Haugaard - Lydian
- Marius Schneider - CEW & IPvocate
- Olivier Vrins - ALTIUS