Netherlands Trademark Firm of the Year: Brinkhof
Q: Can you tell us about your trademark practice (eg, team size, practice focuses and key individuals)?
A: Our trademark and design team consists of two partners (Gregor Vos and Kurt Stöpetie), two trademark attorneys (Adee Keppy and Sophie Gauquier), one senior associate (Rutger Stoop), one junior associate and a dedicated trademark paralegal. All of the team members are fully dedicated to the practice, making it one of the largest trademark and design departments in the Netherlands. The total IP group, of which our team is a part, is the largest in the country, with seven full-time partners and 17 additional lawyers.
Although the practice focuses primarily on trademarks and designs, it also deals with all related copyright queries, pharmaceutical advertising and competition law, and provides strategic and commercial IP advice.
Q: The firm specialises in the full range of IP work areas. How does that benefit its trademark professionals and, by extension, their clients?
A: By founding a niche firm of dedicated IP attorneys, Brinkhof has succeeded in creating a platform that delivers super-specialist attorneys and which other IP attorneys what to be a part of. This is evidenced by the strong growth that the firm has experienced since its establishment.
The high quality of attorneys means that advice is tailored to clients from professionals who know their IP-intensive industries inside out. Brinkhof’s trademark and design team is extremely responsive and knows the problems that IP owners can face from registration to enforcement (via its unique prosecution-litigation practice). As such, it provides clients with valuable insights that enable them to do what they do best: innovate and move their business to the next level.
Left to right: Gregor Vos and Kurt Stöpetie, partners
Q: From a firm perspective, what was your highlight of 2019?
A: The trademark and design team once again topped the most important IP directories (eg, the WTR 1000, Chambers and the The Legal 500), underlining the leading role that the practice has grown to have in the Netherlands. The firm has also made concrete steps towards moving its offices to a much larger location in Amsterdam in 2020, enabling future growth.
Q: How does the team keep abreast of the latest legal developments in order to ensure that strategic advice remains at the forefront of the industry?
A: All members of the team attend in-house IP law briefings on a weekly basis, while many often also provide and attend lectures on trademark law.
Further, team members are regularly trained and challenged to build their individual soft skills, including negotiating, pleading and general client handling skills, in order to provide our client base with the best possible service.
Left to right: Adee Keppy and Sophie Gauquier, trademark attorneys, and Rutger Stoop, senior associate
Q: What is the biggest challenge currently facing IP law and attorney firms, and how can it be overcome?
A: The biggest challenge remains counterfeiting, but now with the additional complication of data protection laws, which bring new difficulties in local enforcement. Although most counterfeit products originate from Asian markets, the rise in e-commerce means that borders are fading and increasing numbers of small counterfeit resellers are popping up around the world. Brinkhof is at the forefront of teaming up with brand owners to battle counterfeit goods.
Q: What qualities do you feel make for a world-class trademark litigator?
A: Up-to-date knowledge of trademark law is essential, as well as top-notch persuasive skills and the ability to make clients feel heard, appreciated and at ease during heavy litigation.
Q: What would you say is the most notable case that the firm has handled?
A: In Summer 2019 freshly acquired firm client T-Mobile was engaged in extremely urgent summary proceedings regarding adverts with telecoms provider VodafoneZiggo. As a result of the Brinkhof trademark and design team successfully fending off these claims, T-Mobile was confident enough to attack the largest telecoms provider – KPN – for similar claims, which led to significant changes to its nationwide advertising.
The combination of Brinkhof’s deep telecoms knowledge and the extremely short periods of both litigation efforts demonstrate the firm’s market-leading ability to provide the best service even within the shortest timeframes.
Q: How are client demands changing and what impact has this had on your practice?
A: Clients are no longer looking solely to external counsel for knowledge – many of our clients have significant expertise in-house. For clients, the obvious advantage is that much more work can be performed internally and external counsel need only be retained in case of escalation. For law firms, this means that discussions with the client are much more in depth. It also forces firms to rethink parts of their earning models and how they can best facilitate clients in this new age.
Q: AI has been a big talking point over the past year. What impact do you think it will have on IP practices?
A: The impact of AI on IP practices is already somewhat palpable and will definitely become increasingly visible over the coming years. IP litigators and prosecutors will not become obsolete, but AI allows for business opportunities that will enable both law firms and clients to operate on a new, global level more easily and far more cost efficiently.
Q: Finally, how different do you think future trademark practice will be – and in what way?
A: Future trademark practice is, in its essence, unlikely to change much. Copycat behaviour and counterfeiting are a thing of all ages and will, unfortunately, continue to exist in the future as well. The way that we deal with this will surely change, and Brinkhof welcomes AI into its practice as much as it can – hopefully to the mutual benefit of the firm and its clients.