Frustrated with the slow pace of the Unified Patent Court’s (UPC) implementation, impatient plaintiffs are driving a marked increase in the volume of patent litigation before Belgium’s courts. Despite having a relatively modestly sized market, the country is still seen as a go-to venue for the litigation of pan-European disputes. Firms remain unsure of the full effect of the UPC should it ever arrive, but remain largely unfazed, perceiving that there will be little incompatibility between the unified court and the way things are done domestically. They are concentrating instead on preparing for more imminent concerns, including a rise in the use of counterfeit seizure proceedings. Conversely, a perfect storm of legislation is pushing a notable decline in the quantity of filings at the Belgian Patent Office, particularly in biotechnology. The new tax regime has made it harder for rights holders to take advantage of tax incentives relating to their intellectual property, while a law harmonising the Belgian patent process with that of the European Patent Office (EPO) has altered the perception that Belgium provides a quick route to getting a patent granted.
Firms: litigation and transactions
- Bird & Bird LLP
- Crowell & Moring LLP
- HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Fieldfisher LLP
- Simont Braun
- Allen & Overy LLP
- CAPE IP Law
- Janson Baugniet
- Linklaters LLP
Allen & Overy LLP
With its finger firmly on the pulse of the Belgian IP scene, the Brussels office of international colossus Allen & Overy is rapidly consolidating its place on the market. The partners excel in steering clients through the tangled web of IP and regulatory issues, effortlessly navigating complex contractual matters and overseeing cross-licensing negotiations. Following its recent poaching of a cadre of former Simmons & Simmons associates, the patent team has never been stronger. Life sciences expert Geert Glas has years of experience in the IP domain, which has ingrained in him an acute appreciation for his patron’s interests. Chairman of the Benelux Council for Intellectual Property and adviser to the World Intellectual Property Organisation on internet law, he is an experienced attorney whose record speaks for itself. Rights holders in the IT and telecoms sectors could not ask for a better champion than recently promoted partner Peter Van Dyck. His rapid ascent is testament to his skill in complex international mandates.
ALTIUS “remains the benchmark by which all others are judged. Deploying the full weight of its very knowledgeable, constructive life sciences team, it continues to rack up significant victories on behalf of originators”. A savvy restructure has guaranteed the firm’s ability to deliver an all-encompassing service and provide guidance across the patent lifecycle. “An un-fazeable litigator with unparalleled know-how, Christophe Ronse is the go-to for contentious patent work. He has earned trust through his refined presentations, but he isn’t afraid to get aggressive when the situation demands it.” His application for an ex parte decision against Mundipharma in preliminary injunction proceedings relating to Roche’s cancer drug Rituximab demonstrated a combative streak that shocked peers and delighted his client. Philippe de Jong splits his time between life sciences work and the flourishing world of plant variety rights. UK juice manufacturer Pixley Berries’ decision to choose him as its representative in Europe’s first ever compulsory licensing application proceedings relating to plant variety rights speaks volumes. An exceptionally experienced lawyer, he justifies the firm’s reputation for licensing and contractual work with his extensive work in this field on behalf of a plethora of large multinationals.
Arnold + Siedsma
Acutely aware of the commercial importance of cast-iron IP rights, Arnold + Siedsma’s astute patent professionals can see straight through to any patent issue a brand may have. “It goes to great lengths to understand its clients’ technologies, enabling it to fight harder and better than anyone else. The team’s international outlook, first-rate technological expertise and outstanding value puts it firmly at the top of the list.” “Immensely suited to the job”, Nele D’Halleweyn “is a pleasure to deal with and is, simply put, the best in her field. When technological issues are at stake, Nele gets straight to the heart of the matter, absorbing information in a flash”. A skilled prosecutor and “formidable in litigation”, she recently concluded a superbly capable defence of Samsung in opposition proceedings initiated by Siemens over a patent related to its MRI scanner. Yannick Philippaerts has all the qualities of an IT master. Perceptive and analytical, he splits his time between work as a court expert and as a force to be reckoned with before the European Patent Office. Maarten Nollen’s wealth of experience and love for his work is self-evident. Whether he is fastidiously prosecuting high-tech patent portfolios or turning around expert opinions at a moment’s notice, “his attention to detail and knowledge” garners effusive praise.
Bird & Bird LLP
The Brussels outpost of IP megastars Bird & Bird “leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of success”. Assuredly handling the most complex of multi-jurisdictional briefs, the team leads the crusade on behalf of large international companies, drawing on a global network and “big law” backing to dispatch obstacles wherever they appear. Head honcho Bruno Vandermeulen has staked his career on ensuring that the set is at the cutting edge of patent practice. “He is an excellent lawyer, whose thorough approach and reputation as a calm and honourable litigator have earned him the respect of his opponents. Active in high-profile cases with repercussions throughout the sector”, he recently secured a defining victory on behalf of telecoms giant Rovi, bringing the ongoing saga over the recoverability of attorneys’ fees in patent matters to a definitive conclusion. Jean-Christophe Troussel is “particularly worthy on the litigation front”. Peers “enjoy seeing him representing the other side”, knowing that his first-class representation will make his opponents’ lives far more challenging. He is also a skilled negotiator and has experience assisting a slew of multinationals in complex licensing and transactional issues.
“Pragmatic and personal, Brantsandpatents seamlessly integrates itself into its clients’ lives”, providing an on-demand, multilingual service tailored to fit each mandate. Litigators “keep the firm close at hand”, seeking to utilise the “intrinsically commercial approach that sets it apart from other patent attorney firms”. Johan Brants is described as “a flamboyant guy whose name is synonymous with success; he is not a typical patent agent”. Dual-qualified as a Belgian and Dutch patent attorney, and with an immaculate record before the EPO, he brings an “incredibly hands-on approach that is always impressive to witness”. A polyglot with 17 years of experience across a spectrum of technical fields, he can always speak the client’s language.
CAPE IP Law
Streamlined set-up CAPE IP’s lean and mean approach to patent work is rapidly pulling in major clients, who appreciate its pure patent focus and the dexterity of its professionals – the firm’s boutique service draws on its partners’ previous experience at full-service firms. Having earned her stripes at Linklaters, Patricia Cappuyns demonstrates a shrewd understanding of the market and has a highly specialised approach to patent work that appeals to leading brands across a broad range of industries. A force to be reckoned with, Véronique Pede attracts a diverse array of multinationals seeking to take advantage of her skill in litigation and transactional work; she recently concluded a licensing agreement with iconic Japanese sportswear brand Asics on behalf of Europlasma.
Crowell & Moring LLP
Knights in shining armour to a selection of generic pharmaceutical companies, the partners at Crowell & Moring’s Brussels office “offer prompt, creative and intelligent solutions to complex pharmaceutical issues. It’s a go-to firm for patent issues, regularly retained for its sound and innovative counsel”. Well-versed in the art of invalidity proceedings, the team specialises in contentious work, scoring points for its staunch representation of drug outfit Sandoz before the Belgian Supreme Court. “With his supreme knowledge of patent matters and an unconventional approach, Kristof Roox is a true fighter, making life difficult for opponents and easier for clients. A perceptive litigator, he picks up on important details that others have overlooked. Held in the highest regard by corporate counsel, he doesn’t waste words, quickly forming a clear and insightful opinion in the shortest of timeframes.” “Quick-witted and astute, Jan-Diederik Lindemans is an excellent attorney” who comes highly recommended for his contentious nous. Skilled in negotiating licensing agreements, he recently advised domestic manufacturer Syral on the financial liabilities associated with its partnership with the University of Ghent joint research result in patentable material. Christian Dekoninck is a rising star and has been racking up notable victories in third-party opposition proceedings. His success has attracted the interest of a number of large multinationals, including Eurogenics and Teva.
De Clercq & Partners
“If we use anyone in Belgium, we use De Clercq & Partners,” enthuses one satisfied customer. “The leading firm in European patent prosecution, it is exceptionally responsive and diligent. With an eye for detail, the team is indispensable to clients and foreign associates seeking advice in European and global strategic patent matters.” Founded with one foot firmly in the world of biotechnology and life sciences, the team now asserts dominance in a variety of industries, including chemical and civil engineering. The firm’s pre-eminent standing in the market is testament to its technical expertise, abilities in contentious work and masterly handling of appellate work before the EPO. Founding partner Ann De Clercq is the beating heart of the practice, whose command of matters has earned her the respect of her peers and chairmanship of the Biotechnology Committee of the Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office. “When you hire Koen Vanhalst to do the job, you can be certain that everything will be done right. Extremely efficient when the situation demands, and never too technical or obtuse in his translation work”, he receives praise for his representation of food and pharmaceutical concerns before the EPO. Working alongside him is chemical and biotech maven Sakina Bounaga. A dab hand in oral proceedings, she has been “crucial to the firm’s successes in huge volumes of chemical work”. Peers “wonder if Liesbet Paemen ever sleeps. She’s extremely diligent and is available around the clock, offering sage advice on the best strategies for any given case. She is an excellent patent attorney and is in high demand as a teacher” – she regularly shares her ample wisdom at a range of academic institutions.
Business is booming for the patent practice at Fieldfisher’s Brussels office due to a slew of high-profile briefs in the technology, media and telecoms fields. The firm was recently appointed as the exclusive IP counsel to the European Commission and it has spearheaded the commission’s strategy in IP matters throughout Europe. In the driver’s seat is Stijn Debaene, a “fierce and practical lawyer, whose patent work stands conspicuously at the forefront among his broad IP and competition practice. He is deeply invested in his work” – a quality for which he is in high demand among large multinationals. Favourable outcomes on behalf of Telenet in the landmark case against Rovi on the recoverability of attorneys’ fees and advisory work for the Belgian government bear testament to his remarkable abilities. Hakim Haouideg is driving the practice’s growth with his “impressive handling of patent disputes. An excellent lawyer, he truly is one to watch”. His knowledge of technology transfer and licensing makes him a popular choice for transactional instructions.
Perennial IP stalwart GEVERS deftly delivers a full suite of patent services. Adept at balancing prosecution, oppositions and litigation, the team maximises its appeal to international clients through its offices across Europe and cost-conscious approach. Adapting a holistic outlook to its patent practice, the firm goes the extra mile, effectively combining the knowledge of its patent attorneys with the support of an accounting firm. It recently emerged victorious in a tender process to provide advice to the European Commission – a success that showcased the firm’s ability to deliver convincing outcomes with maximum satisfaction. The two pillars of the IP practice are partners Ingrid Luyten and Frank Van Coppenolle. Luyten has a “formidable reputation for excellence in the healthcare field”, while Van Coppenolle is a man of many talents; he is an IT virtuoso and is a renowned patent strategist – abilities which he deploys frequently before the EPO.
“A stand-out on the Belgian market, HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER boasts a formidable line-up of top-tier patent litigators – they are all extremely capable, knowledgeable and the best at what they do.” The team’s focus on patent work and its offices throughout Western Europe make it the top choice for pharmaceutical innovators seeking premium representation to safeguard their blockbuster drugs. Liesbeth Weynants “combines incredible regulatory expertise with an unassailable depth of knowledge in patent matters, allowing her to effortlessly provide life sciences and automotive clients with an unrivalled service”. She recently prevailed for Porsche in a complex infringement suit concerning an employee’s invention and also won injunctive relief in proceedings against Sandoz and Teva relating to pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca’s blockbuster drugs. Ably assisting her in the latter, Carina Gommers is an all-rounder whose proficiency across life sciences, electronics and engineering make her indispensable for clients in these industries. She is also an expert anti-counterfeiting specialist and displays a high level of intuition in regulatory matters. “Highly esteemed litigator Carl De Meyer distinguishes himself as a tactician and strategist, the skill and speed of his work ensures he stands out in a crowded field.” Life sciences, food and agricultural players rely on his “aggressive style” when things get contentious. Splitting his time between Brussels and the firm’s office in Paris, Benoît Strowel is a “talented patent litigator”, in demand among leading pharmaceutical companies for his regulatory expertise. Singled out by his peers for his abilities in the courtroom, Steven Cattoor recently emerged triumphant in a battle on behalf of Mundipharma to stop Sandoz from launching a generic version of its pain relief patches Butrans and Norpsan. His success in this complicated case is proof of his considerable skill.
“A go-to firm for anything IT-related”, Leuven’s IPLodge provides pin-point precision to all aspects of patent work. The team possesses a wealth of expertise gathered from decades of working in industry, which it fervidly applies to both contentious and non-contentious work. Head gamekeeper is the eminently capable Michaël Beck. “Dual-qualified as a lawyer and engineer, Michaël possesses both a deep structural understanding of the law and an analytical approach rarely found in a single individual. His inherent ability to explain any issue and argue any case” commands the respect of peers. Proving his determination to remain at the forefront of the European patent scene, he is a prolific writer on intellectual property, a teacher to the next generation of patent professionals and an active researcher. He knows exactly what his clients want and puts their best interests front and centre.
The IP group at full-service outfit Janson Baugniet is in demand for its transactional abilities, which are underpinned by a profound awareness of market practice and competition law. Top dog Mireille Buydens is a licensing mastermind and an astute litigator, earning praise for her “truly incredible work” in the field of chemistry. A discerning legal mind, she is chair of the Belgian Examination Commission for Patent Attorneys. Alongside her is Hans Dhondt, an attorney at law who brings two decades of experience as an IP and IT lawyer to the table; he is vital to the firm’s successes in technology transfer negotiations.
Strategically minded with a sharp commercial eye, Kirkpatrick provides an attentive cradle-to-grave patent service. A favourite among peers for its sterling handiwork across a catalogue of industries, it assists innovators in making the most of their inventions, insightfully pointing out opportunities for them to maximise the value of their intellectual assets wherever possible. CEO Gerard Bloch heads up the patent department.
Offering a rock-solid service to major innovators in the healthcare, biotech and pharmaceuticals fields, full-service firm Linklaters dispenses advice on a broad spectrum of patent issues. Pieter Van Den Broecke understands the complex interplay between patents and other priorities – including taxation and regulatory issues – deploying his team’s remarkable arsenal of talent to harmonise these worlds. “Van Den Broecke is adept at contractual work. He is unfazed by complex litigation, too; when there’s a case, he proves he can take it, and he handles it incredibly well.” He recently secured a favourable settlement in infringement proceedings brought against a leading international manufacturer of sealants and adhesives.
The Brussels office of Benelux firm NautaDutilh is home to a fearsome contingent of patent practitioners who have mastered the intricacies of intellectual property – the team relishes an opportunity to visit innovators to get up close and personal with the ideas it is hired to protect. As a full-service outfit, the firm covers all bases; its clients benefit from the certainty that extensive regulatory and competition expertise is on-call when required. Managing partner Philippe Péters is the pole star guiding the team; experienced in litigation and transactional work, he displays an unprecedented mastery in the telecoms, media and technology fields. “In litigation, it’s always more fun to have a good opponent and Florence Verhoestraete is exactly that. She’s a great litigator whose talents enable her to dictate the issues on which a case will be fought.” On behalf of nano coating manufacturer P2i, she forced the Belgian constitutional court to address possible discrimination between the holders of process patents and product patents – an issue never before considered by the Belgian courts. Highly sought after for her command of regulatory issues and her knowledge across a range of industries, she focuses her talents as head of the firm’s life sciences group. “A lawyer who is destined for greatness, Tanguy de Haan is one to watch. His superb advocacy skills and excellent understanding of patent issues keep the other side on their toes.” Among his successes he can count hard-fought victories in the field of medical devices, as well as the honour of being invited to participate in the UPC judges’ conference in Venice – an exclusive opportunity that reflects his talents and reputation.
Dutch IP headliner NLO has been “investing heavily in Belgium over the last year”; its Ghent outpost has recently been turning heads for its finely honed advice and impeccable handling of patent prosecution and portfolio management. “Boasting a team with robust industry experience, it is a top choice, offering a high-quality service rivalling the very best the Belgian scene has on offer.” The first port of call for clients is Erwin Ehrenburg – the office’s managing partner.
A carefully crafted blend of Belgium’s “most technically gifted patent lawyers”, Simont Braun has a record in the field that speaks for itself. Held in high esteem for its litigation experience, the firm continues to take on a significant volume of international instructions, negotiating licensing deals on behalf of a swathe of medical devices manufacturers; its full-service offering stands ready to assist on regulatory issues as and when they arise. Leading the line-up is founder of the European Patent Lawyers Association and president of the high advisory board to the Belgian government on intellectual property Fernand de Visscher, “a luminary and asset to the field”. Freshly minted partner and IAM Patent 1000 debutant Philippe Campolini battles on behalf of manufacturers in the medical devices, automotive and weapons industries. Eric De Gryse’s impressive résumé is a potent draw for clients who value his substantial knowledge in the field of plant variety rights and decisive input in international litigation.
Frequently co-counsel to Belgium’s top patent attorneys, “Stibbe is a top-class IP firm. Strong client relationships are built through its excellent all-round litigation capacity”. The side’s professionals are particularly accomplished in handling life sciences matters and are shrewd in anticipating the needs of multinationals – as a result of which the firm’s transactional practice is booming. “Tough in his approach, Ignace Vernimme is a heavyweight” whose 30 years of practice keeps opponents on their toes and clients grateful for his expertise in complex issues.
Leaping onto the Belgian scene a little over six years ago, the Leuven office of Benelux stalwarts VO Patents & Trademarks has doubled its technical capacity in that time; rights holders can rest easy knowing that whatever their issue, it is in safe hands with the VO team. The firm robustly protects innovators’ businesses, offering honest, commercially minded advice. Leuven team captain Marco Box’s encyclopaedic knowledge of mechanics and IT “earned him a well-deserved promotion to partner last year and prestige as a go-to guy in these fields”. Box is currently educating inventors on the potential for patenting software to rapidly increase the number of filings in this sector. Annemie Jaeken makes her IAM Patent 1000 debut, garnering praise from foreign associates who value her “technical expertise and quick thinking”. “Combining efficiency with a profound understanding of client technology, she assists in offering a clearer picture of novelty and scope of protection.” With his extensive experience in research and development, chemical aficionado Marco Molling is cognisant of the importance of securing impervious protection for intellectual assets. A schooled prosecutor, he excels in oppositions before the Belgian, Dutch and European patent offices. Marie-José Luys is an unwavering ally to small start-ups, deploying her expertise in the chemical industry to level the playing field; she leads the firm’s initiative to support smaller outfits in protecting their intellectual assets. Her skills and international focus are also in high demand among an array of larger companies, for which her prudence and strategic mind are also an indispensable asset.
Other recommended expertsBaker McKenzie’s Belgian IP group chair Koen De Winter is a leader in the field and continues to advise on a host of patent-related matters. With his extensive experience of supplementary protection certificates, Peter L’Ecluse is a trusted source of insight and a key representative for large pharmaceutical companies. He practises out of the Brussels base of Van Bael & Bellis. Antwerp’s start-ups depend on Karin Ottelohe’s comprehensive understanding of their needs for advice on the protection of their intellectual property. She plies her trade at local outfit ADVOCANT.
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 LLP
- 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 LLP
- Florence Verhoestraete - NautaDutilh
- Ignace Vernimme - Stibbe
- Liesbeth Weynants - HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER
- Philippe Campolini - Simont Braun
- 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
- Karin Ottelohe - ADVOCANT
- Pieter Van Den Broecke - Linklaters LLP
- Peter Van Dyck - Allen & Overy LLP
- Michaël Beck - IPLodge
- Johan Brants - Brantsandpatents
- Nele D'Halleweyn - Arnold + Siedsma
- Ann De Clercq - De Clercq & Partners
- Liesbet Paemen - De Clercq & Partners
- Sakina Bounaga - De Clercq & Partners
- Marco Box - VO Patents & Trademarks
- Annemie Jaeken - VO Patents & Trademarks
- Marie-José Luys - VO Patents & Trademarks
- Ingrid Luyten - GEVERS
- Marco Molling - VO Patents & Trademarks
- Maarten Nollen - Arnold + Siedsma
- Yannick Philippaerts - Arnold + Siedsma
- Frank Van Coppenolle - GEVERS
- Koen Vanhalst - De Clercq & Partners