What has been the secret to your success over the years?
Albeit I would love to bask in the aura of mystery and secrets, I am afraid there are none. ‘My success’ is actually better described as ‘our success’, referring to the people behind the firm that I am proud to have co-founded and built together with friends and people who have become friends. My colleagues are great lawyers and can connect with people and understand clients’ needs, which is vital. We did not expect to make it this far and are grateful to all the big-name clients that trusted us early, when this was probably not always easy with ARNOLD RUESS being a newcomer on the market. This achievement is only possible with people who are passionate about the profession. Searching for and cultivating this passion – even in difficult times – is a constant challenge for the partnership, but one that I feel we have coped with well.
Which aspects of your work do you enjoy most and why?
Developing strategies is certainly challenging and fun, but I will always be a litigator. The idea of lawyers spending most of their time locked away in a data room has never appealed to me. In our business, clients do not litigate for small stakes and consequently do not embark on lawsuits lightly. To be part of this process, to plot and strategise along with our clients and colleagues, is what makes our profession so exciting.
How do you manage your firm to ensure that clients receive the highest standard of service while all staff fulfil their potential?
Everybody in our league hires and trains top talent. That is a necessary but no sufficient element. What I want young colleagues to understand and what we consistently teach people at the firm is that we are not here to advance abstract legal theories. Rather, we need to resolve specific situations for real corporations which come with risks, chances, a budget and a timeline. There is no use in sending 20 pages of legal thought to a client where the actual result needs to be traced in the document like the culprit in a good crime novel or else there is no clear solution (as in a bad crime novel). Similarly, if asked about the chances of success, take a side; do not go for 50:50. Dig deeper every time. Our clients want and need that. If the case is bad, be honest. Tell the client but offer alternatives. Young colleagues are motivated by hands-on experience. Client contact starts on day one. While we accommodate part-time schemes, we also ensure that somebody is always available.
What are the biggest challenges of building an international IP strategy and how do you overcome these?
Most challenges become smaller with experience, but one clear effect of moving from a multinational firm to a boutique is that you do not have a network built into your phone directory. Instead, you have to create and maintain one of – and on – your own. Looking back, I think that personal trust and the ability to choose people based on merit, responsiveness and common case experience, rather than because they happen to staff your firm’s office in another jurisdiction, is advantageous for both the team and the client, and is well worth the effort that we generally spend on this.
How do you expect the EU enforcement landscape to evolve in the coming years?
Enforcement is becoming more international and more efficiently organised. The new EUIPO IP Enforcement Portal (IPEP), which was launched in 2019, is a good example of this. Hopefully, we will see more authorities using the potential of information pooling. Belgian Customs started to issue notifications on the detention of infringing goods through the IPEP’s Suspicious Case feature in March 2021. On the contentious side, there is the issue of filtering which infringements should be handled, how and in which jurisdiction. Unlike in the early years of internet trade, not every eBay offer warrants a case of its own. Multinational rights holders may wish to pursue an efficient strategy that provides the best possible protection by watching core markets, fighting key battles and protecting key assets while working with the authorities, online platforms and other host or content providers to a reasonable and effective extent.
Peter Ruess is a partner at ARNOLD RUESS and a professor of law at the International School of Management in Dormund, Germany. He studied law in Bayreuth, Germany, Vienna, Austria and Washington DC where he obtained an LLM in IP law and interned with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Prof Dr Ruess has authored and co-authored more than 70 publications and represents mid-sized to large corporate clients in trademark and unfair competition matters.