Despite the uncertainties presented by the Unified Patent Court and Brexit, it is business as usual on the Belgian patent scene. Skirmishes in the life sciences – many involving novel biosimilars issues – continue to predominate in the nation’s courts; while on the non-contentious front, patent attorneys are enjoying an influx of instructions from the country’s buzzing start-up scene. This trend looks set to continue – especially as the government continues to fund various accelerators and incubators with a view to promoting innovation.
Firms: litigation and transactions
- Bird & Bird LLP
- Crowell & Moring LLP
- HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Allen & Overy LLP
- CAPE IP Law
- Fieldfisher LLP
- Linklaters LLP
- Simont Braun
- Baker McKenzie
- Janson Baugniet
- Taylor Wessing
Allen & Overy LLP
For multinational corporations, Allen & Overy fits the bill perfectly: practitioners across its international offices work collaboratively to provide a seamless cross-border enforcement service, while always keeping an eye out for lucrative commercialisation opportunities. Innovators call on Geert Glas, Filip Van Elsen and Peter Van Dyck for percipient, clear-cut advice. Glas – the former chair of the Benelux Council for Intellectual Property – has accumulated immense insight over his 30 years of practice; Van Elsen is a go-to for digital transformation projects and presides over both the global TMT group and the Belgian IP/IT division; and Van Dyck consistently gets signatures on the bottom line of game-changing deals.
“One of the best patent litigation firms in Belgium, ALTIUS has an experienced and conscientious team which excels in the life sciences” and maintains a sterling track record in pharmaceutical cases. Its work highlights speak for themselves: this year the ensemble has represented industry heavyweights such as Gilead, Biogen, Roche and Genentech, as well as Eli Lilly and its subsidiary ICOS. Leading the charge is Christophe Ronse, “a persuasive and well-prepared advocate who always gets clients’ points across. He has a comprehensive and deep understanding of all the nuances of not only patent law, but the life science issues surrounding it too. As a result, he is quick to find holes in counterarguments and handles the most complex cases with confidence”. Boasting finely honed expertise in plant variety rights, “Philippe de Jong knows how to put up a solid defence. He brings together rational arguments, impressive counterattacks to aggressive rhetoric and a keen eye for detail, which leads to great success”.
“Young and dynamic, Arnold & Siedsma is there for clients from the stages of ideation through to grant and there is always a bright patent attorney on hand for any technical field.” “Its flexibility, efficiency and constructive attitude are added bonuses; as is its desire to educate and assist in-house R&D departments.” In Nele D’Halleweyn, the set has a strong leader “whose diligence, pragmatism and proactivity are most impressive”. Armed with a PhD in micro-electronics and a knack for identifying the essence of each invention, “she oversees matters in a way that combines strategic insights with impeccable technical skills. Having her on board to correct, adapt or improve upon our work fills us with great comfort”, enthuses one patron. Splitting his time between guest lecturing at the Catholic University of Louvain and shepherding applications through to grant, Yannick Philippaerts “showcases an extremely thorough understanding of Belgian and European practices, a great eye for detail and the ability to learn new technical domains”.
In 2019, esteemed boutique Pronovem joined forces with international IP powerhouse AWA and the resulting outfit makes its debut in the IAM Patent 1000 this year. Its Belgian, Dutch and Swiss offices now operate under the AWA name and total office count has been increased to 21, spanning two continents. “Its service and responsiveness are superb; the prosecution process is managed perfectly on both a formal and substantive level, and applications are well written and always delivered on time.” Senior European patent attorney Dieter Heck is a familiar face before the European Patent Office (EPO) and “is crucial to the successful outcome of a case. His outstanding knowledge of the law and understanding of the polymer industry gained in-house make him a highly valuable attorney. His performance in oral hearings is also spectacular”. A molecular biologist with three decades of experience behind him, Eric Van Malderen dispenses incisive strategic guidance and infringement support in the burgeoning biotech and greentech industries.
Working harmoniously with its counterparts across the globe, Baker McKenzie’s Belgian contingent efficiently secures favourable outcomes in multi-jurisdictional contentions and sews up intricate transactions with finesse. It recently defended Beckton Dickinson Group against B Braun Melsungen AG in a suit which was heard in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium. The case was brought to a successful and amicable close via settlement by IP division spearhead Koen De Winter. This battle-hardened litigator knows when to push and when to pull back – a skill he has sharpened over 38 years of practice.
Bird & Bird LLP
“Bird & Bird enjoys partnering up with the companies it serves and resolves cases in a way that makes sense to its clients’ wider business objectives. It has seen almost everything there is to see in enforcement scenarios and can anticipate next moves to position itself ahead of the game.” The team draws judiciously on wider firm resources to come up trumps in international litigation. Brussels-based leader Jean-Christophe Troussel is the embodiment of the firm’s values: “friendly, efficient and responsive”, he keeps a cool head in even the most heated life sciences disputes with transformative commercial implications. Flanking him is Domien Op de Beeck, another dyed-in-the-wool litigator; the IAM Patent 1000 newcomer garners warm plaudits for his “detailed advice and measured approach to cases – he gets his points across clearly and puts up a good fight. Op de Beeck is a pleasure to work with or even against”.
“A lean but super-strong outfit”, Brantsandpatents serves up first-rate guidance with a distinctly personal touch – an approach that proves popular with innovators seeking enduring IP protection. Firm founder and “solutions-oriented attorney” Johan Brants has abundant experience in the life sciences and an affinity for obtaining supplementary protection certificates (SPCs). He works closely with Ellen Crabbe, who is widely sought after for her post-grant capabilities and strategic nous. “The pair are fun to collaborate with and truly deserve their stellar reputation – you really want them on your side when the going gets tough.”
Since opening its doors in 2017, patent attorney boutique Calysta has been making waves on the legal landscape and debuts in the IAM Patent 1000 with style. “In a few short years, it has built up a promising and creative team that delivers high-quality, efficient services without breaking the bank. It forgoes unnecessary administrative steps and its practitioners are always available to answer questions.” This is exactly what Ludivine Coulon had in mind when she set up shop; she moves heaven and earth to maximise the value of clients’ intangible assets. In the words of one inventor: “Ludivine delves into the technicalities, grasps them quickly and caters her advice to her audience. She nurtures our applications in a way that they can withstand any attack.”
CAPE IP Law
The tight-knit ensemble at CAPE IP Law punches well above its weight in must-win disputes, earning itself ardent fans in the topmost echelons of the pharmaceutical industry. Rainmakers Véronique Pede and Patricia Cappuyns attract praise from all corners of the market. “Véronique’s drive, positive attitude and genuine interest in business structures make her one of the best lawyers to work with. She is hands-on, cost-conscious and extremely knowledgeable, and takes the time to explain legal principles, potential risks and pitfalls too.” Co-founder Cappuyns is “an outstanding litigator who is completely devoted to the cause and always on the lookout for creative strategies. She is incredibly fun to work with as well”.
Crowell & Moring LLP
“Crowell & Moring is a point of reference on the Belgian market and the go-to firm for generic pharmaceutical manufacturers. It has deep reserves of knowledge and understands the practical implications of the pricing and reimbursement status of medicines. It is always ready to try something new, think out of the box and surprise its opponents.” It recently prevailed for Sandoz in an SPC skirmish, convincing the Dutch-speaking Court of Enterprises in Brussels to uphold its interpretation of the regulations and invalidate one of Gilead’s certificates. Masterminding this success was Kristof Roox, arguably the fiercest litigator in the country: “He never leaves a stone unturned and keeps opposing counsel on their toes by finding arguments no one would ever think of in order to obtain a successful result. He hammers his points home and certain shifts in Belgian case law would not have happened if it was not for him.” Working alongside Roox on the Sandoz brief was trained biomedical scientist Jurgen Figys, “who thinks of innovative ways to approach issues and questions. He is the preferred counsel for cross-jurisdictional IP and regulatory advice”. Also packing contentious firepower, Jan-Diederik Lindemans “is bright and tenacious in court – it’s brilliant watching him in action”. “Efficient and effective communicator” Gunther Meyer rounds off the impressive squad, acquitting himself with distinction on heavy-duty disputes and transactions.
De Clercq & Partners
“Depth of technical expertise, knowledge, attention to detail and efficient handling of instructions make De Clercq & Partners the first choice for patent prosecution work in Europe.” Laser-focused on biotech and chemistry, it houses more than 20 practitioners who are dedicated exclusively to protecting inventions; almost all hold PhDs in their respective technical fields. A steadfast leader and renowned name in Belgium, Ann De Clercq works shoulder to shoulder with Sakina Bounaga, Liesbet Paemen, Koen Vanhalst and Jeffrey Gyi on behalf of clients such as Odyssea Pharma and the listed Capsugel, now a Lonza Company. “The group reliably suggests strategies that take into account the most recent legal and procedural developments at the EPO, and provides insightful, cost-effective guidance which obtains commercially meaningful patents.” This year, the IAM Patent 1000 also welcomes Andrej Michalik, who presides over the firm’s new third branch in Hasselt and shines on oral proceedings before the EPO.
With offices across the continent, full-service outfit Fieldfisher has its finger on the pulse of the European patent scene and is a compelling choice for both start-ups and multinationals that find themselves fighting large-scale infringement fires. The business-savvy advice of media and telecoms maven Stijn Debaene is informed by a granular understanding of unfair competition and regulatory law. Fellow technology whizz Hakim Haouideg brings the heat in enforcement scenarios, but is a dab hand at software licensing and outsourcing agreements too.
Some 300-plus experts fly the flag for GEVERS from five bases in Belgium and outposts in France and Switzerland. Its China and US desks are a boon both for regional players anxious to safeguard their rights abroad and for overseas enterprises keen to establish a European foothold. A broad talent pool ensures it has the right know-how to handle all instructions that come its way, regardless of sector. Organic chemistry PhD Ingrid Luyten has walked many miles in clients’ shoes over 13 years as a senior research specialist and analyst in industry. Frank Van Coppenolle is the real deal on the mechanical and electronical arts; he provides astute patent portfolio guidance to premier technology companies. When it comes to computer-implemented inventions, Samuel Denis has a keen sense of what is and what is not patentable – and the track record to prove it. Fellow IAM Patent 1000 newcomer and mechanics guru Jurgen Duyver dispenses “insightful and clear advice that inventors instantly understand and can put to good use immediately”.
“One of the strongest teams on the continent, HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER balances technical expertise with superb litigation skills to successfully fight for clients’ best interests.” Bolstered by support from offices in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain, the group makes light work of pan-European instructions and has established itself as an elite player in the life sciences. For instance, Sequenom and Illumina have the ear of Steven Cattoor, who oversees their enforcement strategies. “Cattoor is a remarkable lawyer who thoroughly analyses each and every case. He is eager to understand the technology behind the product and efficiently cooperates with patent attorneys to ensure that all legal, technical and patent interpretations align.” Meanwhile, Benoît Strowel, Carina Gommers and Liesbeth Weynants linked up to assist Boehringer Ingelheim in a dispute relating to a blockbuster product. “Strowel thinks creatively and strategically, and is not easily fazed – if something does not work out as expected, he dives right back in and does his utmost to get patrons a successful outcome.” Gommers is deeply engaged with the companies she assists, navigating them through uncharted waters with her resonant, tailored advice. “You can only sing the highest praises of Liesbeth,” enthuses one patron of Weynants. “She is excellent, immensely experienced and knows the industry like the back of her hand.” “Sharp-shooting litigator Carl De Meyer has taught many practitioners in the country the tricks of the trade.” He adroitly unpicks the knots of convoluted disputes in the food and agricultural sector.
“Inteo is a breath of fresh air in the local patent community – not only through its top handling of cases, but also through its efficient and smooth communication. It certainly is one to keep on your radar.” The Mechelen-based boutique may be compact, but it represents some of the biggest names in the world in both enforcement and transactional contexts. “Pleasant natured, responsive and really fun to collaborate with”, co-founders Kristof Neefs and Sofie Cubitt have built the practice into what it is today. “Kristof supports us not only with thorough legal advice, but also with creative defence arguments and strategies that are geared up for success,” reports one client. “He is smart, knowledgeable and reliable, with an ability to present complex ideas in a clear manner.” Merck Sharp & Dohme is among the companies that benefit from his guidance. With a flair for the drafting and negotiation of high-rolling licensing deals, Cubitt has lately been representing publicly listed biotechnology company Galapagos and Siemens Industry Software. Her specialised work with research consortiums makes her a fine choice for R&D agreements.
A diligent searcher of prior art and prolific filer, IPLodge is an invaluable partner for start-ups and university spin-offs looking to carve out a share of the market; it also helps larger corporations to achieve their asset commercialisation goals. The fulcrum around which the practice turns is Michaël Beck. He has held several research engineer and in-house counsel positions, and has published and lectured widely; he delivers crisp results at the confluence of engineering and technology.
Janson Baugniet’s long history is studded with IP achievements, most notably in sensitive enforcement and transactional scenarios. Hans Dhondt and Mireille Buydens preside over the IP and IT practice. Dhondt focuses on the medical devices, automotive and cosmetics sectors, and brings over two decades of experience to the table; while “Buydens’ understanding of business and technology, coupled with her encyclopaedic knowledge, makes her a winning litigator”.
Working hand in hand with the innovators it serves, Kirkpatrick is more than just external counsel, but rather a true business partner, fully invested in their journeys. It hunts down new patentable opportunities, devises fertile strategies and helps companies to reap maximum return on their investments through IP-rich deals. Life sciences and chemistry sage Philippe De Diesbach is the name to note.
Ascending to the silver tier this year, Linklaters continues to impress with its robust and sophisticated IP offering. The troop excels both in courtroom spats and hardnosed negotiations; and when push comes to shove, they dovetail seamlessly with other departments at the firm to tackle multifaceted mandates for industry leaders. Pieter Van Den Broecke wears the captain’s armband: “He is always easy to get hold of, even when swamped under mountains of work, and provides pragmatic advice underpinned by great business acumen.”
Benelux outfit NautaDutilh has a legion of compelling litigators and talented deal makers working out of offices in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, as well as in London and New York. Perfectly placed to assist those with far-flung business interests, it also deftly handles matters that come laced with regulatory and unfair competition issues. For example, Florence Verhoestraete has been representing P2i, the first technology spin-off from the UK Ministry of Defence, in proceedings before the Constitutional Court. She oversees the division alongside Tanguy de Haan, who has the coordination of cross-border and pan-European disputes down to a fine art. A font of wisdom at the firm, Philippe Péters has spent almost four decades bringing fraught disputes and licensing negotiations to a fruitful close.
The Belgian branch of Dutch firm NLO has been in expansion mode lately, making some significant additions to its local division. The ensemble is characterised by a passion for innovation and speaks the language of inventors – as evidenced by its recent work with the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre, for which it has been busy patenting in relation to semiconductors and 3D memory devices. It is likewise an invaluable partner to the in-house department at Atlas Copco. Steven Sarlet is the first port of call for high-tech companies.
Complex global patent litigation is meat and drink to the lawyers at Simont Braun, who conjure up ingenious solutions to contentious challenges in the life sciences, medical device, electronics sectors. Fernand de Visscher recently played a hand in a high-profile matter for weapons manufacturer FN Herstal, ensuring that his client could keep its key product on the international market. He also teamed up with colleague Eric De Gryse to represent OGI Systems, a diamond and gemstone manufacturer, in parallel infringement proceedings which are also ongoing in Israel and India. They both possess significant trial strength and an intuitive feel for the intricacies of each brief, giving every angle the attention it deserves to cover all bases and construct bulletproof arguments.
Full-service international firm Stibbe enjoys a broad practice and a stellar reputation, earned through its impeccable performances in high-stakes disputes. Of late, it has been representing Munidpharma in proceedings relating to the distribution of a biosimilar product; and has been pressing on for Mylan in a protracted matter that began almost 13 years ago. The man in charge is Ignace Vernimme: “He stays calm in the face of adversity, understands challenging technical subject matter and achieves brilliant results by putting up a strong fight.” The practice has been bolstered with the arrival of former Simont Braun lawyer Philippe Campolini, who tackles transnational mandates with poise. Patrons are quick to note his “proactivity, reliable nature and down-to-earth attitude. He offers valuable solutions and his submissions are always impressive, with convincing lines of argumentation”.
Although Taylor Wessing is relatively fresh to the Belgian market, its global presence is formidable: the outfit boasts 11 branches across Europe, together with bases in China, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. The Brussels unit has been steadily growing and companies can draw on a wealth of resources across a variety of sectors, although life sciences is a real stronghold. Representing a slew of key players in the field is Christian Dekoninck who “acts quickly and gives out thoughtful and comprehensive advice”. He counts Pfizer among his key clients.
Few firms out there are more committed to driving innovation than VO Patents & Trademarks. It recently set up a fourth office in Liege, located in the Science Park of the University, so it is always close at hand for budding inventors and can effectively spread the gospel of IP protection. The team supports clients of all stripes in myriad meaningful ways, from prior art searches to IP landscaping and drafting of R&D agreements. Aerospace engineer Annemie Jaeken thrives in the mechanical field, where she guides patrons through tense negotiations and helps them to build out and refine their portfolios. For chemical patent matters, Marco Molling is the one for the job. He spent five years at a laboratory equipment company and fully understands the needs of SMEs, tailoring his prosecution services to suit. Overseeing the smooth operation of the Leuven office, Marco Box maintains a broad mechanics, electronics and IT practice, but shines brightest on optics technologies. He can get the toughest applications through the filing gauntlet and has a knack for opposition proceedings too.
Other recommended expertsFormer NautaDutilh lawyer Christel Brion recently joined Deloitte Legal, where she serves up “no-nonsense advice that gets to the crux of the issue at hand”. Life sciences skirmishes woven with regulatory and trade secret threads are a forte. At Eubelius, Pieter Callens “is a hardworking and enthusiastic advocate with up-to-the-minute knowledge of legal developments”. “Resolutely focused on IP, Valentin De Le Court has a clever approach to case management and looks out for the best possible solutions. The reliable attorney always bears the interests of his clients in mind” and can be found at Daldewolf. ADVOCANT’s Karin Ottelohe “works diligently, prepares her cases thoroughly and is always eager to dive into the nitty-gritty of each brief”. Patrick Van Varenberg of Bureau MFJ Bockstael “gets right down to the essence of the invention, to ensure the patent enjoys the widest scope of protection possible. An added bonus is his effort to analyse potential outcomes and formulate answers for the examiner if the situation requires it”.
Individuals: litigation and transactions
- Carl De Meyer - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Christophe Ronse - ALTIUS
- Kristof Roox - Crowell & Moring LLP
- Benoît Strowel - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Liesbeth Weynants - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Mireille Buydens - Janson Baugniet
- Philippe Campolini - Stibbe
- Patricia Cappuyns - CAPE IP Law
- Steven Cattoor - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Eric De Gryse - Simont Braun
- Tanguy de Haan - NautaDutilh
- Philippe de Jong - ALTIUS
- Fernand de Visscher - Simont Braun
- Stijn Debaene - Fieldfisher LLP
- Geert V Glas - Allen & Overy LLP
- Carina Gommers - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Jan-Diederik Lindemans - Crowell & Moring LLP
- Kristof Neefs - Inteo
- Véronique Pede - CAPE IP Law
- Philippe Péters - NautaDutilh
- Jean-Christophe Troussel - Bird & Bird LLP
- Peter Van Dyck - Allen & Overy LLP
- Florence Verhoestraete - NautaDutilh
- Ignace Vernimme - Stibbe
- Christel Brion - Deloitte Legal
- Pieter Callens - Eubelius
- Sofie Cubitt - Inteo
- Valentin De Le Court - Daldewolf
- Koen De Winter - Baker McKenzie
- Christian Dekoninck - Taylor Wessing
- Hans Dhondt - Janson Baugniet
- Jurgen Figys - Crowell & Moring LLP
- Hakim Haouideg - Fieldfisher LLP
- Gunther Meyer - Crowell & Moring LLP
- Domien Op de Beeck - Bird & Bird LLP
- Karin Ottelohe - ADVOCANT
- Pieter Van Den Broecke - Linklaters LLP
- Filip Van Elsen - Allen & Overy LLP
- Patrick Van Varenberg - Bureau MFJ Bockstael NV
- Johan Brants - Brantsandpatents
- Nele D’Halleweyn - Arnold & Siedsma
- Ann De Clercq - De Clercq & Partners
- Liesbet Paemen - De Clercq & Partners
- Michaël Beck - IPLodge
- Sakina Bounaga - De Clercq & Partners
- Marco Box - VO Patents & Trademarks
- Ludivine Coulon - Calysta
- Ellen Crabbe - Brantsandpatents
- Samuel Denis - GEVERS
- Jurgen Duyver - GEVERS
- Jeffrey Gyi - De Clercq & Partners
- Dieter Heck - AWA
- Annemie Jaeken - VO Patents & Trademarks
- Ingrid Luyten - GEVERS
- Andrej Michalík - De Clercq & Partners
- Marco Molling - VO Patents & Trademarks
- Yannick Philippaerts - Arnold & Siedsma
- Frank Van Coppenolle - GEVERS
- Eric Van Malderen - AWA
- Koen Vanhalst - De Clercq & Partners