Belgium

Last year saw some significant developments on the contentious front: the Brussels Commercial Court was given exclusive jurisdiction to hear patent cases, while the statutory €11,000 cap on attorneys’ fees came under the microscope in a spat between Telenet and Rovi, which was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). While the full implications remain to be seen, commentators are optimistic that these developments should make Belgium a more attractive jurisdiction in which to litigate (currently, relatively few patent infringement suits are brought before the Belgian courts). As established Dutch players make forays into the Belgian market, competition between the nation’s patent attorneys and IP lawyers is heating up. This is not yet reflected in the IAM Patent 1000 rankings – which remain largely unchanged this year – but practitioners are increasingly aware that they must always bring their A-game.

Firms: litigation and transactions

1
ALTIUS
Bird & Bird
Crowell & Moring LLP
2
Allen & Overy LLP
Fieldfisher LLP
NautaDutilh
Simont Braun
Stibbe
3
Eubelius
Linklaters LLP

Firms: prosecution

H
Arnold + Siedsma
Brantsandpatents
De Clercq & Partners
GEVERS
IPLodge
Kirkpatrick SA
Pronovem Intellectual Property Group
Allen & Overy LLP
With the ability to assemble a dream team of seasoned practitioners for every brief going, full-service powerhouse Allen & Overy prides itself on its cross-border patent litigation and transactional prowess. “Longstanding and excellent all-rounder” Geert Glas chairs the firm’s prestigious global IP group. His aptitude in the patent space was recently acknowledged by the minister of the economy, who promoted him to the Belgian Council for Intellectual Property. IT and life sciences sage Glas is an adroit litigator with experience in a number of precedent-setting European court cases; he is also a skilled arbitrator, with World Intellectual Property Organisation and International Chamber of Commerce accreditations.
ALTIUS
Home to one of the country’s largest IP teams, ALTIUS showcases a rarely-matched facility for bringing patent disputes to a successful close. With a wealth of experience in groundbreaking European cases, it has carved out a reputation as the go-to operator in Belgium for pharmaceutical originators. The “unbeatable” Christophe Ronse sets the benchmark for life sciences patent litigation nationally. “Tough, but fair – and all about substance, not formalities – he cuts straight to the heart of the case.” He is currently representing Bayer Pharma against Sandoz and Effik in contentious proceedings relating to patent protection for birth control pills. A leading authority on plant variety rights and another serious contender in court, Philippe de Jong also knows how best to put an IP agreement together. Companies keen to entrust all their IP affairs to a single individual appreciate the versatility of all-rounders Olivier Vrins and Paul Maeyaert.
Arnold + Siedsma
Celebrating its 95th anniversary in 2015, this storied Benelux boutique has a long tradition of securing cast-iron protection for patrons in Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. Drawing judiciously from an international chest of resources, it ably meets the needs of everything from small start-ups to large multinationals. “Incredibly efficient and effective” electronics and engineering specialist Nele D’Halleweyn “distinguishes herself from competitors through a very readable and fluent style of writing. She has the ability to explain technical issues to judges and laymen in a way that they can understand; her opinions can be easily used in court cases and can be followed by clients”. Key customer Samsung recently sought her out when in need of quick and effective protection to consolidate its market position. “Excellent, thorough and knowledgeable” Maarten Nollen “is remarkable – a very fine patent attorney and the best assistance you could hope for in litigation. He is unique in the level of support he provides, but he doesn’t try to take your place as an advocate. He is extremely patient and focused on the detail.”
Bird & Bird
Whether handling technically complex disputes or intricate transactional mandates, Bird & Bird’s passion for technology and intellectual property shines through. Always at the cutting edge of developments in patent law and policy, it has played a key role in discussions over the Unified Patent Court. “Committed, diligent, sharp and academically gifted” Bruno Vandermeulen provides inspiring leadership to the Brussels faction. “He is really one of the market’s stars – he’s been around the block and has appeared in so many cases in different domains.” Highlights of the last 12 months include work on multiple licensing disputes and a crucial suit that tested the statutory cap on recoverable attorneys’ fees. Fellow partner and Licensing Executives Society Benelux president Jean-Christophe Troussel combines licensing and litigation expertise in a neat package. He recently secured a landmark decision from the European Patent Office (EPO) Boards of Appeal for a major drinks company; the food and beverage sector is a stronghold, but he has the chops to span multiple disciplines with ease.
Brantsandpatents
Representing a diverse clientele across a broad range of technologies, dynamic prosecution shop Brantsandpatents continues to thrive. Deep relationships with patrons have given it a nuanced understanding of their businesses, which is reflected in its output. “Clients are evidently really satisfied with the firm’s work and are often moving there from competitors,” confide peers. Founding partner Johan Brants is “the star of the show”; life sciences, chemistry and engineering all fall within the bailiwick of this experienced Belgian, Dutch and European patent attorney. Prosecution is his bread and butter, although he also dispatches EPO oppositions and appeals with a sure hand.
Crowell & Moring LLP
Challenging multi-jurisdictional patent litigation is the key driver behind trailblazing Crowell and Moring’s burgeoning IP practice. Its resourceful, battle-hardened trial lawyers are hailed for their work for generics manufacturers, which has helped to shape Belgian law and practice. In 2014, for example, it won Supreme Court victories that overturned the presumption of validity of European patents. Heavyweight litigator Kristof Roox is “the leading representative of generic manufacturers in Belgium”. “He is a real fighter who can make your life difficult on the other side, especially if you are trying to make a procedural case. His clients believe in him and stick with him through thick and thin, and he has been able to pull out precedential results.” He frequently teams up with Jan-Diederik Lindemans; the two joined forces on behalf of Japanese nutrition company Ajinmoto in its global L-Lysine patent litigation against Chinese player Global Biochem Technology Group. Up against Christophe Ronse of ALTIUS, they also fought the corner of Sandoz and Effik in a spat with Bayer over birth control pills. Lindemans is admired for his “sharp and clear pleading style”.
De Clercq & Partners
“De Clercq & Partners runs a thriving patent prosecution practice and consistently provides exceptional service informed by creative insights. It is efficient and reasonably priced.” “A firm of choice for representing clients before the European Patent Office (EPO)”, it recently obtained a complete patent revocation for USB Pharma in a European recombinant protein production case against Genentech. The victory bears testament to its standing in the life sciences, but it is no one-trick pony and has lately developed an enviable IT client base. The cosmopolitan outfit, which can communicate with clients in six languages, houses a “responsive, professional and highly proficient” group of over 30 dedicated experts, all of whom possess PhDs or industry experience. Founding partner Ann De Clercq “manages to instil within her firm the characteristics that make working with her so comfortable, with timely, diligent and careful attention given to every file. Showing a real appreciation for practice trends at the EPO, she keeps the firm at the forefront of European patent agency services”. Fellow partners Liesbet Paemen and Sakina Bounaga are other key draws. Paemen’s CV is impressive: she has a wealth of postdoctoral research and in-house experience (she was a patent counsel at Bayer Cropscience), and has also been a department head at another IP firm. She leads the Leuven bureau. Bounaga has worked and studied in several European countries, experience which has informed her international perspective on clients’ matters. The clever chemistry and biotechnology expert takes on everything from prosecution at home and abroad to EPO oral proceedings, IP due diligence and strategic counselling.
Eubelius
With a number of multi-disciplinary practice groups marrying deep expertise with joined-up thinking, Belgium’s largest independent law firm is well placed to meet and exceed the patent needs of its exclusively commercial clientele. Pieter Callens is a key point of contact.
Fieldfisher LLP
Fieldfisher has made headlines lately through its representation of leading Belgian telecoms company Telenet in a major shootout with Rovi over electronic programme guide technology; the dispute has gone all the way up to the ECJ. Handling the matter are Stijn Debaene and Hakim Haouideg, who “form a great team”. “They are excellent, strategic lawyers who know patent law inside out – and who are able to convince the courts of it.” Debaene heads the IP department and comes in for particular praise: “He is business oriented, easy to approach and respected by judges for his clearly structured and convincing arguments.” Outside the courtroom, he counsels on a wide range of pharmaceutical law topics and brokers IP-focused deals in the life sciences.
GEVERS
Chalking up some 115 years of experience and with a presence in three jurisdictions, GEVERS ranks among the best-known filing shops in Belgium: “If you ask the average entrepreneur which prosecution firm he knows, it will be GEVERS.” The ensemble does a sterling job aligning its advice with clients’ commercial aims, covering every technical discipline under the sun. It cooks up something special in the chemistry department, which is led by the “very constructive” Ingrid Luyten. She joined the organisation in 2014, bringing with her a deep pool of in-house experience from industry titan Solvay. Another touchstone for chemical companies, as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnology enterprises, is deft portfolio manager Ludivine Coulon. Already among the Belgian elite, Hoyng Monegier has positively bowled the market over since tying up with top-tier German outfit Reimann Osterrieth Köhler Haft to create HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER. The Brussels branch is flourishing and has been taking on increased responsibility for coordinating major international litigations. Carl De Meyer is a real statesman of the patent litigation arena and respected for his work in the life sciences – a bastion of strength for the wider firm. “Carl is technically brilliant and knows how to navigate towards the best result for the client. From a tactical point of view, he’s one of the best there is.” Benoît Strowel is another “excellent strategic thinker” who gets to the crux of the salient business and technical issues in any case. Captaining the Brussels life sciences crew, Liesbeth Weynants is the architect of many victories for the likes of AstraZeneca; she also has the pedal to the metal in a case for Porsche against an engineer in a spat over race car technology. “She gets results and that’s a given.” Clients love what fellow litigator Steven Cattoor brings to the table: “He is helpful, engaging, proactive and knowledgeable about the practicalities of Belgian patent law and court practice. He is also very customer friendly and always looks out for your interests.” For those in the electronics business, Carina Gommers is the one to call. “She is incredibly knowledgeable about a great range of legal issues. In addition to being friendly and easy to work with, she demonstrates excellent attention to detail. Carina is able to pick up quickly on scientific information, showing a good technical understanding.”
IPLodge
Glowing peer recommendations see recently established boutique IPLodge enter the IAM Patent 1000 for the first time this year. Going beyond delivering simple protection for patentees, the innovative set-up dispenses sage strategic and legal advice across the patent lifecycle. “Extremely hardworking, remarkably knowledgeable and someone who treats clients well”, “gentleman” Michaël Beck is the firm’s leading light. He holds master’s degrees in both law and engineering, giving him a holistic view of the profession. Commentators regard the electronics and IT maven as “a brilliant young man with a great future”.
Kirkpatrick SA
With a team of multilingual patent attorneys and a number of corporate lawyers well versed in intellectual property, this storied ensemble possesses the depth of expertise and flexibility to devise tailor-made solutions for a multitude of clients. Its cradle-to-grave offering makes it a persuasive one-stop shop. Alain Decamps is a key contact for all things chemistry-related.
Linklaters LLP
Linklaters knows how to put the IP icing on the cake in the context of blockbuster deals – but that’s not all it knows. It represents clients on a broad range of IP matters and has recently handled copyright actions for Amazon.com, provided strategic advice to Belgian listed retailer Delhaize and advised Beiersdorf on issues at the intersection of competition law and intellectual property. Pieter Van Den Broecke is involved in all these goings-on and more. The young partner captains the side and takes the lead on the group’s most important contentious and commercialisation projects.
NautaDutilh
NautaDutilh was founded in 1724, but it doesn’t make a big deal of its illustrious history – it is one of the most progressive full-service commercial firms in Benelux. Intellectual property is no second-fiddle practice area, but the subject of significant investment; clients have all the resources they need to tackle challenging contentions and fast-moving transactions. It has a not-so-secret weapon in Florence Verhoestraete, a feted patent, trademark and unfair competition expert. In litigation, “she presents well-reasoned arguments and has a methodical approach that is highly effective”. Moreover, “she has excellent listening skills, and is a transparent and upfront negotiator”. Major cross-border campaigns pose Tanguy de Haan no problem; the tireless advocate has the magic touch when it comes to simplifying dense technical material. The group takes its cue from Philippe Péters, a seasoned pro with experience in a broad range of both IP and commercial cases. The erudite lawyer has published widely and loves to share his knowledge with stakeholders in the IP market.
Pronovem Intellectual Property Group
Dynamic international prosecution group Pronovem – formerly Office Van Malderen – sets a high bar in terms of client service. It caters for all pre and post-filing patent protection needs, and understands how the litigation game is played, too; in infringement scenarios, clients trust its analyses and appreciate its great network of top lawyers. Founded over three decades ago in Brussels, the firm has gone on to expand in a number of European jurisdictions; most recently, in 2014, it cut the ribbon on a branch in Maastricht. Highly qualified patent and trademark attorney Joëlle Van Malderen is a key contact for interested parties.
Simont Braun
Simont Braun “scores well when it comes to consistency and quality”. Patent litigation is the firm’s IP metier and the group has proved its mettle before the Supreme Court on numerous occasions. Fernand de Visscher has helped to shape Belgian patent law throughout his career. The fabled scholar has “the sharpest knowledge of the law” and “can litigate any IP issue and give shape to lucrative IP-based transactions”. In court, “it is a pleasure to see him operate – he finds just the right words and style for the occasion”. Eric De Gryse is another name to note. He excels at domestic and cross-border litigation in regulated industries, and boasts valuable expertise in ancillary areas such as consumer and unfair competition law.
Stibbe
Full-service outfit Stibbe tackles all things IP from a rigorously commercial mindset – an approach which plays well with innovators looking to put their intangible assets to good use. It is a repository of trust for life sciences leaders, which flock here in their droves for the percipient counsel of Ignace Vernimme. The strategic maestro always thinks two moves ahead and his meticulous preparation gives him a further edge going into litigation. Redoubtable Benelux boutique V O opened its Leuven branch in 2012 and has since gone down a storm in Belgium. The European IP protection specialist covers all technical disciplines with aplomb; but unlike many firms steeped in the science, its advice is imbued with a distinctly commercial flavour – it knows how to obtain patents and, crucially, what to do with them afterwards. “Highly experienced and likeable”, Marco Molling has a loyal following. His advanced understanding of food technology sets him apart, although he is not easily pigeonholed in the broad field of chemical patents, in which he has seen and dealt with most things. Fellow chemist Marie-José Luys acquits herself with distinction when nurturing small and medium-sized enterprises to success. Mechanics, physics and electronics are where Marco Box shines; the Leuven partner in charge provides vital support in infringement litigation.

Luminaries

Claude Quintelier - Sole practitioner

Individuals: prosecution

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

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 - Cappuyns Intellectual Property 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
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
Carina Gommers - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
Hakim Haouideg - Fieldfisher LLP
Peter L’Ecluse - Van Bael & Bellis
Paul Maeyaert - ALTIUS
Pieter Van Den Broecke - Linklaters LLP
Olivier Vrins - ALTIUS
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Issue 82