Belgium

The reimbursement of attorneys’ fees is a hot topic for Belgium’s patent professionals: in 2016, the European Court of Justice ruled against the existing system of low fixed-fee recovery for successful litigants. The resultant changes are expected to have a dramatic impact on patent litigation, although the precise amount of recoverable fees remains to be determined by national courts. Belgian patent holders are also waiting to see what replaces the country’s generous IP tax incentives, which were abolished following recommendations from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Uncertainty regarding the much-anticipated Unified Patent Court (UPC) is another major talking point for local practitioners.

Firms: litigation and transactions

1
ALTIUS
Bird & Bird
Crowell & Moring LLP
2
Fieldfisher LLP
NautaDutilh
Simont Braun
Stibbe
3
Allen & Overy LLP
CAPE IP Law
Janson Baugniet
Linklaters LLP

Firms: prosecution

H
Brantsandpatents
De Clercq & Partners
GEVERS
IPLodge
Kirkpatrick SA
Pronovem Intellectual Property Group
Allen & Overy LLP
Supported by colleagues worldwide, Allen & Overy’s Belgian contingent executes on the most challenging international instructions with composure. Effortlessly dispatching contentious briefs, the esteemed commercial law firm shows equal skill in monetising patents. Captaining the global IP group is Geert Glas, an IT and life sciences ace who has tried landmark cases in numerous forums, including the ECJ. Also a percipient adviser and accredited arbitrator, Glas is an influential figure on the IP scene: he was appointed by a federal minister to the Belgian Council for Intellectual Property and chairs the Benelux Council for Intellectual Property.
ALTIUS
With a solid bench of “intelligent, well-versed lawyers”, “top-tier IP firm” ALTIUS solves complex patent conundrums for a diverse selection of rights holders. Its staunch advocacy for innovative pharmaceuticals companies is unsurpassed; clients applaud the firm’s refined appreciation of regulatory implications in this field. The “exceptional” Christoph Ronse attracts fervent praise from peers: a “masterly patent practitioner”, he “communicates clearly, argues persuasively and finds inspired solutions in litigation”. Ronse continues to impress in a plethora of disputes for patrons including Novartis and ICOS Corporation. Fellow hard IP specialist Philippe de Jong is another venerable courtroom operator; plant variety rights are his specialty. Other first-rate professionals include “excellent all-round litigator” Paul Maeyaert and Olivier Vrins, a go-to guy for cross-border matters. The Belgian branch of European IP powerhouse Arnold + Siedsma provides a sophisticated, internationally attuned service for an assortment of innovators; its technical breadth allows it to secure and manage patent rights across a variety of subject areas, while its flexible approach is popular with small and large companies alike. Combining a fine-tuned understanding of electronics and mechanics with exquisitely crafted legal arguments, the “brilliant” Nele D’Halleweyn acquires patents, pleads in oppositions and advises on disputes. Clients laud her “great communication skills, shrewd business mind and adaptable approach”. She recently employed her creative talents to assist Samsung in obtaining a slew of intellectual assets within a tight timeframe. “Thorough and well informed”, chemistry and material sciences whizz Maarten Nollen forges cast-iron patent rights and offers invaluable litigation support. Also noted for the diversity of his practice is newly featured Yannick Philippaerts, whose wealth of contentious experience informs his top-notch prosecution work.
Bird & Bird
Bird & Bird is “excellent in litigation and regulatory advice for the food and pharmaceuticals industries. Its professionals impress with their knowledge, business acumen and ability to achieve objectives. They are practical and down to earth, and adapt to the needs of the client”. Partnering harmoniously with its “superb network” of colleagues in other jurisdictions, the IP team is a poised performer on pan-European mandates. “Wonderful lawyer” Bruno Vandermeulen is a “tour de force who overcomes the most formidable opponents in disputes. He is respected by the judicial community and is not afraid to get in the gutter and fight when necessary. He is an assured litigation manager who is business savvy and provides astute strategic advice”. Vandermeulen has been representing the Belgian government in a ground-breaking Constitutional Court case regarding IP jurisprudence and has also acted for Rovi Corporation in a precedent-setting suit before the ECJ regarding recoverable attorneys’ fees. He was recently succeeded as head of the Belgian IP group by Jean-Christophe Troussel – another patent sage who is respected for his resolute advocacy. “Deeply informed on all patent matters”, he is commended for his “discreet and proactive advice and ability to place himself in his clients’ shoes”.
Brantsandpatents
“Lean, flexible and very service minded”, IP agency Brantsandpatents is a major port of call for domestic companies seeking to protect their innovations. Distinguished for its “commercial brilliance”, the outfit offers intelligent portfolio development guidance and meticulous drafting services; insightful counsel on initial public offerings and IP tax benefits is another strong suit. An “excellent professional who is creative and effective”, Johan Brants is the fulcrum around which the practice turns; a dab hand at applications, oppositions and appeals, “he argues a case well and his work goes beyond that of most patent attorneys”. Brants recently represented Cresco in nullity proceedings in the Netherlands in a ground-breaking case regarding the protection of plant material obtained by breeding.
CAPE IP Law
Making its debut in the IAM Patent 1000, compact boutique CAPE IP Law is increasingly admired for its “tenacious patent litigation”. Led by two accomplished IP specialists Patricia Cappuyns and Véronique Pede – the firm deals confidently with even the most intricate matters for both domestic and foreign companies. Cappuyns is an “absolutely superb litigator with impressive business acumen and ample courtroom experience”. An expert in pharmaceuticals and related regulations, she is renowned for her sterling work on behalf of Teva. Equally esteemed and drawing on 20 years of experience, Pede is “brilliantly knowledgeable and easy to work with”. Having authored an influential textbook on Belgian patent law, she is a thought leader in the field. Pede is currently defending Europlasma in a case before the Constitutional Court and has also advised it on a lucrative licensing agreement with ASICS.
Crowell & Moring LLP
Crowell & Moring is a go-to firm for demanding multi-jurisdictional cases and must-win disputes. Widely considered Belgium’s champion of generic drug companies, “it continues to obtain crucial decisions in pharmaceutical patent litigation”. “The country’s outstanding practitioner in this field” is Kristof Roox, a “superb trial lawyer” celebrated for his forceful arguments and tactical insight. In addition to successfully defending Eurogenics in summary proceedings against Novartis, he recently recorded victories for Sandoz in a multi-faceted suit with AstraZeneca. Jan-Diederik Lindemans is another redoubtable campaigner: “Intellectually sharp, he is clear in his arguments and excellent at pleading.” Lindemans has won key battles for Ajinomoto in its ongoing spat with Global Biochem Technology Group; the opposing party has been slapped with one of the most expensive destruction orders issued in recent years. The newly featured Christian Dekoninck adds further quality to this crack team; he specialises in IP and regulatory law in the life sciences, with automotive patent disputes another forte.
De Clercq & Partners
Providing “granular technical expertise and well-honed strategic judgement”, prosecution shop De Clercq & Partners has an unsurpassed reputation in biotechnology and chemistry; its side possesses numerous PhDs in the field and infinite industry wisdom. “Collaborative and practical, the team interfaces well and maintains good relationships with individuals at the patent office, other firms and professional organisations. Its specialists spot issues early and address them effectively.” Lynchpin Ann De Clercq “leads the thriving firm and gives every file timely, diligent and careful attention. The practice’s annual patent seminar is an example of how she keeps it at the forefront of European patent agency services, with real awareness of trends at the European Patent Office.” Colleague Sakina Bounaga “knows how to secure valuable intellectual assets”; while fellow life sciences marvel Liesbet Paemen is a skilled prosecutor and discerning adviser who draws on extensive research experience and a stint as patent counsel for Bayer Cropscience to superb effect. Making his first appearance in the IAM Patent 1000, Koen Vanhalst garners plaudits for his incisive expert testimony and polished performances in oppositions; the former European patent examiner is “very analytical and well informed”.
Fieldfisher LLP
The “trusted IP adviser” for a litany of IP-rich companies, Fieldfisher impresses with its dexterous handling of patent agreements and “simply outstanding” contentious work. The firm’s star players are Hakim Haouideg and Stijn Debaene – “exceptional litigators who show sound judgement in crucial decisions, accurately predicting outcomes and producing huge successes”. Life sciences and media aficionado Debaene is hailed for his “knowledgeable, fact-based approach”, while software and computing whizz Haouideg demonstrates “an exceptional understanding of client needs”. The duo enjoyed a groundbreaking win at the ECJ for Telenet against United Video Properties and have also been appointed by the minister of economics to advise on changes to the law on patent attorney privilege. Other highlights include the deft management of a thorny dispute for Puratos and the smooth brokering of a patent licence between Novadip and the Catholic University of Louvain.
GEVERS
With a web of offices across the country and over a century’s practice under its belt, GEVERS is an imposing presence on the Belgian patent landscape. Famed for its slick prosecution, it also provides meticulous rights management and pre-litigation services. Ingrid Luyten – a chemistry PhD with years of postdoctoral experience – exemplifies the firm’s cutting-edge technical prowess. A former in-house counsel, she knows how best to maximise patent value. The patent team is headed by Ludivine Coulon, a life sciences authority who “pulls out all the stops to ensure that all her clients are well served”. She is also a staunch defender of patrons in oppositions. The Brussels branch of European IP dynamo HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER is a shrewd operator in hotly contested disputes; its illustrious team contains many of the most sought-after litigators in the country. “A superb all-rounder with varied but high-level skills”, Carl De Meyer leads the Brussels patent group, showing “tactical and strategic aptitude” when advocating for clients across a range of industries, especially automotive. He has carved a real niche in fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing. The “brilliant” Liesbeth Weynants is a revered pharmaceuticals specialist with a keen understanding of the regulatory matrix. She recently demonstrated her capabilities in successful litigation for Guerbet against Bayer which prevented her client from suffering a sharp fall in prices, and has been defending one of Teva’s innovative products in a dispute with Mylan. The “accomplished” Benoît Strowel is also recognised for his life sciences know-how; he acts for trailblazing drug companies such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly. Further firepower in biotechnology is provided by Steven Cattoor, who nimbly counsels on issues at the intersection of IP and antitrust law. He lately acted on behalf of Mundipharma in a descriptive seizure action against generic competitors and fought Umicore’s corner in a trade secrets disagreement. Carina Gommers has a multifarious practice, encompassing consumer goods, electronics and chemistry. She is commended for her assiduous cross-border enforcement.
IPLodge
Characterised by its attentive ethos, vibrant patent agency IPLodge makes its sophomore appearance in the IAM Patent 1000. Its service goes well beyond acquiring watertight legal protection for its burgeoning client base; the firm also devises and implements tailored IP strategies and proves a crucial ally in the run-up to litigation. “Excellent patent prosecutor” Michaël Beck receives glowing praise: “A very clever practitioner, he demonstrates well-honed strategic instincts and understands litigation dynamics too.” The electronics and IT master is especially extolled for his work in the dynamic fintech sector.
Janson Baugniet
Led by a cohort of acclaimed IP practitioners, general outfit Janson Baugniet is featured for the first time this year. Mireille Buydens is a “respected patent expert with a great track record in litigation”. Co-heading the IP practice with her is Hans Dhondt, a “no-nonsense lawyer” with “a practical approach”: “He doesn’t lose himself in the details and stays focused on the big picture. Dhondt knows his clients and how to form a strategy for their cases; he stays two or three steps ahead of the opposition.” He makes effective use of these aptitudes when resolving disputes and sealing technology-heavy deals.
Kirkpatrick SA
The versatile band at Kirkpatrick SA can answer every patent question going; innovators trust it to secure the right results on all manner of IP procurement, monetisation and enforcement briefs. Providing on-point, on-budget advice across an array of technological disciplines, the practice is particularly prized for its facility with chemistry innovations. Formerly in-house counsel at Solvay, Alain Decamps is a key contact.
Linklaters LLP
Linklaters’ Belgian contingent is renowned for its sure-footed stewardship of IP-rich deals. Drawing on the firm’s wide-ranging commercial acuity and bolstered by sophisticated international support systems, the IP team handles complex cross-border agreements with aplomb and effortlessly extracts optimal value from intellectual assets. Marshalling the side is “great lawyer” Pieter Van Den Broecke, a cool-headed negotiator who flourishes at the interface of IP, corporate and financial issues. He also heads the firm’s global consumer sector team.
NautaDutilh
Benelux full-service hotshot NautaDutilh has a flair for getting transactions over the line and for bringing high-stakes litigation to a favourable close. Its “brilliant patent lawyers” have a wealth of resources at their disposal – not least the firm’s substantial regulatory department, which has made pharmaceuticals and banking happy hunting grounds. Heading the life sciences team is Florence Verhoestraete, a discerning counsellor and savvy enforcer. She was recently lead counsel in a number of crucial battles and closed some important licensing and research deals. Philippe Péters is an “experienced and effective IP specialist” with an intricate appreciation of case law and a commercially attuned approach to patents. “Extremely bright lawyer” Tanguy de Haan has a glittering reputation for acting before EU courts and is known for his superlative work in international disputes. Recent highlights include successfully defending a client’s patent against invalidity proceedings initiated by Nouvag. Dutch IP bastion NLO has made an indelible impression on the Belgian patent market since opening its Ghent office in 2015. A forerunner in life sciences and chemistry patent prosecution in Benelux, the agency is well positioned to procure and protect rights for local innovators in the East Flanders research and industrial hub. On top of precision drafting, NLO delivers flawless strategic advice from a domestic and pan-European perspective. The business-oriented Erwin Ehrenburg is a go-to practitioner.
Pronovem Intellectual Property Group
With professionals based in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, Pronovem has the wherewithal to build unassailable patent portfolios for national and multinational inventors. Across the non-contentious spectrum, its technically adept attorneys give their clients a commercial edge through the shrewd acquisition and management of intellectual property. Seasoned patent attorney Joëlle Van Malderen plays a pivotal role in the practice.
Simont Braun
Simont Braun’s “superb litigators” are consummate performers in patent disputes, especially before the Belgian Supreme Court. Silver-tongued Eric De Gryse presents learned and persuasive arguments to achieve dazzling results: Ogi Systems recently benefited from his skills in infringement and revocation battles with Sarine. Another “extremely erudite” trial lawyer, Fernand de Visscher leads the IP team and has a penchant for cross-border matters; he recently acted in multi-jurisdictional litigation for Arcelor Mittal against Tata, Corus and Segal and for Knauf Insulation against Saint Gobain. De Visscher also presides over the Belgian High Council of Industrial Property.
Stibbe
Matching a wealth of commercial expertise with deep IP insight, Stibbe helps rights holders to meet and exceed their business objectives. Dealing confidently with all manner of patent briefs – involving everything from farsighted portfolio counselling to IP monetisation and enforcement – the firm is tried and trusted by some of Belgium’s most prominent innovators. Ignace Vernimme is the cornerstone of the practice; the “dynamic, tough and driven lawyer” is known for his scrupulous preparation. The formidable V O makes light work of all non-contentious patent mandates, employing creativity to obtain, strengthen and deploy intellectual assets to optimal effect. With 60 professionals in branches throughout Benelux and top-notch technical acumen across the spectrum of disciplines, the firm’s “patent experience is brilliant”. Chemical engineering and food technology are strong suits for high-flier Marco Molling, who can unerringly acquire protection for difficult-to-patent inventions. The “extremely good” Marie-José Luys has vast knowledge of chemical and mechanical innovations; she frequently advises start-up companies on IP development, with licensing another key focus. Marco Box is a physics, mechanics and electronics maven who has lately been concentrating on software-related patents. The judicious drafter also knows his way around opposition proceedings. He recently obtained technology rights for 3ax BV’s pioneering bicycle pedal.

Luminaries

Claude Quintelier - Valipat SA

Individuals: prosecution

Michaël Beck - IPLodge
Sakina Bounaga - De Clercq & Partners
Marco Box - V O Patents & Trademarks
Johan Brants - Brantsandpatents
Ludivine Coulon - GEVERS
Ann De Clercq - De Clercq & Partners
Nele D'Halleweyn - Arnold + Siedsma
Marie-José Luys - V O Patents & Trademarks
Ingrid Luyten - GEVERS
Marco Molling - V O Patents & Trademarks
Maarten Nollen - Arnold + Siedsma
Liesbet Paemen - De Clercq & Partners
Yannick Philippaerts - Arnold + Siedsma
Koen Vanhalst - De Clercq & Partners

Individuals: litigation and transactions

Carl De Meyer - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
Christophe Ronse - ALTIUS
Kristof Roox - Crowell & Moring LLP
Benoît Strowel - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
Bruno Vandermeulen - Bird & Bird
Mireille Buydens - Janson Baugniet
Patricia Cappuyns - CAPE IP Law
Steven Cattoor - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
Philippe de Jong - ALTIUS
Fernand de Visscher - Simont Braun
Stijn Debaene - Fieldfisher LLP
Geert V Glas - Allen & Overy LLP
Jan-Diederik Lindemans - Crowell & Moring LLP
Véronique Pede - CAPE IP Law
Philippe Péters - NautaDutilh
Jean-Christophe Troussel - Bird & Bird
Florence Verhoestraete - NautaDutilh
Ignace Vernimme - Stibbe
Liesbeth Weynants - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
Eric De Gryse - Simont Braun
Tanguy de Haan - NautaDutilh
Koen De Winter - Baker McKenzie
Christian Dekoninck - Crowell & Moring LLP
Hans Dhondt - Janson Baugniet
Carina Gommers - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
Hakim Haouideg - Fieldfisher LLP
Peter L'Ecluse - Van Bael & Bellis
Paul Maeyaert - ALTIUS
Karin Ottelohe - Advocant
Pieter Van Den Broecke - Linklaters LLP
Olivier Vrins - ALTIUS
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Issue 87