Biotechnology companies are among the most dynamic in our fast-paced economy and it seems that they just keep on going. Our representation of various companies and individuals in this field places us in a good position to understand your needs and those of this fast-moving market. IP issues are important for companies in this field, as well as financing and a wide range of other issues relating, among other things, to R&D, product and market regulation and licensing.
Corporate and Commercial
Whether you are in business already or are planning a start-up or even the purchase of an existing business, our team is here to help. In an ever-changing legal environment, it is important to follow the pace of change and keep up with the competition. Our firm offers the full range of corporate and commercial services you need to achieve your goals and succeed.
- General Corporate
Our general corporate services include maintaining your organization in good standing and in compliance with applicable law. We offer services and advice with respect to the preparation and holding of annual, special and extraordinary meetings of shareholders as well as of board of directors’ meetings. We also can provide advice with respect to maintaining your company or other legal entity in good standing with any regulatory or other authorities, including with respect to any filings and fees required.
- Constitution of Corporate and Legal Entities
Are you looking for advice and help in setting up a limited liability company or a non-profit organization? Brussels is a good place for business and for various reasons Brussels has become a veritable hub for international non-profits and our experts can explain why and examine whether this is good for you. Our team have all the information and advice you need to get you on your way. We will also keep you informed of any developments and changes that could affect your business.
- Mergers and Acquisitions
Through years of practice and experience our M&A team experts can advise and counsel you, accompanying you through important commercial transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions, be they domestic or international. We also provide advice on sales of assets as well as shares and other equity and debt instruments. Several of our team members teach and speak at seminars to share their knowledge and experience in the field, so that you are certain to benefit from the latest techniques and advice to model your proposed transactions.
- Restructuring and Reorganisations
When things don’t go as planned or should you need to make structural changes to your business organization, it is key to be well surrounded by professionals who can help. We offer these important services and can also help you restructure your undertakings following changes to taxation or other laws affecting your business.
As part of the services we offer, our specialists, working with our ever-expanding network of professionals, can offer you top-notch tax advice as required to optimize your organization’s tax situation. Tax planning is an important part of business planning and we can help you with this too.
- Commercial Contracts
Businesses require a multitude of agreements and contracts throughout their existence. Contracts range from shareholders’ agreements to agreements with customers, suppliers, distributors, agents, licensors, licensees, debtors, creditors and banks. We can help you sort this all out to your advantage.
- Complex Debt Recovery
Sometimes clients may not pay you as quickly as you would like or have problems honoring their obligations. Many tools are available to help you in such sticky situations and our professionals can tell you about them and help you use these to meet your needs and take some pressure off your shoulders.
- E-Commerce and M-Commerce
In our ever-evolving world of commerce and industry, technical means are more and more important to every successful business. Our team keeps up-to-date with these technical means of commerce and can advise you as to the latest techniques and tools to keep pace with these changes. E-commerce, B2B, B2C or C2C and many others, our specialists can help you take advantage of these developments as well as those yet to come.
- Real Estate
Real estate and property transactions are also central to the operation of any business or household. Our experts can help you with the usual real estate transactions, such as a simple lease or purchase of property as well as the more complex real estate transactions which could be helpful to your business or household.
- Trading Practices and Consumer Protection
Laws and regulations keep piling up and can seem like a nightmare for certain businesses at certain times. Consumer protection laws and regulations continuously evolve and it is important, especially for retail and wholesale sales and/or distribution operations, to keep abreast of this legislation. We can do that for you and advise you as to how you can comply with and remain compliant with all of these laws and their changes throughout the lifetime of your business.
Although we recognise the increasing importance of alternative forms of dispute resolution (ADR); we have strong credentials in litigation before both the national and European law courts. Several counsels from FLINN have undertaken specialised training to act in mediation or arbitration proceedings as mediators or arbitrators or as counsel for a party. The choice of a dispute resolution forum should be of high importance to all parties. Our goal is to bring your case to a successful conclusion using the appropriate means in view of the best result.
Mediation is a confidential dispute resolution process that can be used to resolve business and other issues between parties. Due to confidentiality, none of the documents / arguments discussed can be used outside the mediation. The parties agree to appoint a mediator and agree on the rules that will apply. Mediation is a voluntary process, so each party remains free to withdraw from it at any time. Parties are usually assisted by their respective counsels. The cost of mediation is normally borne equally by the parties. If you believe mediation would be an appropriate means to solve your particular issues and to sustain your important relationships in the long term (whether business or personal) FLINN can help.
The agreement to arbitrate, rather than go to the law courts, is usually expressed in an arbitration clause in a contract. Also, certain specific laws and treaties contain the obligation to arbitrate rather than litigate. Arbitration is likely to be concluded in less time than litigation before the public courts. FLINN advises on the drafting and inclusion of arbitration clauses in contracts and on their effects if a dispute arises. We counsel clients in arbitration proceedings but also act and are appointed as accredited arbitrators. Even if arbitration proceedings are a private process before a ‘neutral’ forum, an important reason for choosing arbitration, particularly in cross-border commercial contracts, is international enforceability (in more than 150 contracting states worldwide) under the New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. When the arbitration is completed, we advise clients on enforcement of the award if that proves necessary.
The process of bringing or contesting a legal action in court requires attention not only to the applicable law but also the facts and the process. From the pre-litigation process (whether a cease and desist or a demand letter to the other party before starting proceedings) through the written proceedings, trail and enforcement of judgments, FLINN lawyers have the experience to guide you through the court proceedings.
If you want to expand sales of products or services, but do not want to do this yourself, a range of alternatives is available. Depending on your business format, management resources, capital and the local knowledge that you have available; agency, distribution, franchise, licensing and merchandising, offer alternative ways of reaching new customers in new markets. After you have reviewed the options, face-to-face discussions with a FLINN lawyer can help clarify the strategy that will best help you to achieve your goals.
An agent is a person who has the power to negotiate (and, in some cases, conclude) contracts on behalf of another person for the purchase or sale of goods or services. The agent is considered to form a part of the business organisation of the principal – so that the agent does not independently bear financial or commercial risks for the activities undertaken. In return for doing so, the agent is typically paid a commission on the sales made. The agency relationship is not without its potential pitfalls. An indemnity may need to be paid to an agent at the end of the agency contract. Moreover, there is a formal requirement (under both Belgian national and European law) that the party terminating the agency should send the required notice of termination in writing – with the notice period ending at the end of a calendar month.
FLINN lawyers are experienced in advising and drafting agency agreements and negotiating the termination arrangements when an agency agreement ends.
Appointment of a distributor can also be a useful way of penetrating new markets. One essential difference between distribution and agency is the independence of the distributor who is typically required to make investments in the distributorship and to purchase its stock and who make sales in its own name and at its own risk.
Distribution relationships come in several flavors: exclusive, where the distributor is given exclusive rights to sell within the contract territory; sole – where the distributor gets exclusive rights, subject to the manufacturer/provider retaining rights to make certain direct sales itself (often for established customers); non-exclusive – where one or more distributors may be appointed for the same contract territory; selective – for sophisticated or prestigious products – where admission to the distribution network is subject to achieving certain objective standards including expertise in relation to the products and to the premises where the products are presented.
FLINN lawyers are very experienced with all types of distribution arrangements and can help you choose the contract ‘flavor’ that will suit you best.
Parties within a franchise network aim to establish a long term ‘win-win’ relationship. Entering a franchise arrangement implies closer links between the franchisor and its franchisees than those in a standard distribution arrangement.
Belgian law on pre-contractual information for commercial partnership arrangements, requires specific information to be given to a prospective franchisee before the franchise contract can be concluded and fees paid. It prescribes a mandatory one-month cooling-off period before contract signature. (Similar rules apply in other European jurisdictions and, for example, in the USA, Canada and Australia.)
The existence of a franchise network strives to multiply success – so that an individual franchisee’s success reflects positively on the other members of the network. However, even if the franchise agreement states that the franchisee is an independent contractor: given the franchisor’s obligation to assist the franchisee, there can be a fine line between contractual obligations and potential interference with the franchisee’s business.
As well as accompanying you through the negotiations and contractual arrangements – whether they are for the establishment of your master franchise or for the purchase of your first franchise outlet – FLINN lawyers are also aware of the tensions that can arise in franchise networks. We are here to help you solve any such problems in a commercial and cost effective manner.
- Licensing & Merchandising
Establishing and maintaining a brand is a lifetime’s work. The more successful a brand is – the more susceptible it becomes to attack through counterfeit, piracy or other unauthorised attempts to trade on the good-will associated with the brand. FLINN lawyers’ experience of advising on infringements of your licensing and merchandising rights, issuing cease and desist procedures and seizure of goods can assist you to deal with such threats. Each and every specific situation requires an appropriate strategy.
As part of the services we offer, our specialists, working with our ever-expanding network of professionals, can offer you top-notch tax advice as required to optimize your organization’s tax situation. Tax planning is an important part of business planning and we can help you with this too.
We will work with you in this very dynamic and technical area of the law to make your life as easy as possible. Expertise in these matters is important, but we also bring to the table our experience and understanding of the underlying issues and how to deal with them to your advantage.
We represent employers as well as employees; individuals as well as companies and unions. Our lawyers provide advice, their negotiation and drafting skills, as well as a communications channel with the unions, regulatory authorities and government agencies. And if your matter belongs before the Labour Courts or other competent tribunals, we will be right there with you, representing your best interests.
- Mobility and Immigration
Our clients, Belgian and multinational organizations, as well as employees and employee representatives and unions, seek our advice with respect to mobility and detachment issues throughout Europe and the rest of the world. We have experience and will advise you on how to accompany worker detachments, get work permits, resident permits and what to do about pensions, both statutory as well as complementary.
- Labour Law
We will advise and assist you with your individual and collective labour relationships, from pre-contractual (recruitment) discussions to formalizing agreements, including collective bargaining agreements and formation of employer-employee committees and others, up to the termination phase and perhaps well beyond.
Our services include:
– Recruitment and hiring/engagement
– Working hours and rest periods
– Termination of contract
– Collective labour agreements
– Employee representation
– Tax advice with respect to remuneration and other benefits
– Statutory labour law
– Compliance inspections
– Privacy rights and data protection
– Intangible property protection
– Work environment and well-being
– Labour compliance audit
– Services and consultancy agreements
Reorganisations, mergers and acquisitions, the sale or transfer of part or the totality of business units and divisions always raise issues with respect to the labour force and employment in the work place. Collective dismissals, insolvency proceedings and other related restructurings, should these occur, always require careful planning and full knowledge of the specific provisions which may apply in these cases. We will explain and help you apply the best solution to the applicable circumstances.
- Social Engineering
We provide practical advice adapted to your business activities and industry: salary splits, seconded employees and/or management, management companies and alternate forms of remuneration to suit your specific needs and optimize your situation.
- Social Security
We also assist the various stakeholders with respect to Belgian National Social Security laws and regulations, whether they concern employees, employers or the national regulatory authorities, the payment or recovery of any payments made with respect to such laws and regulations and any litigation which might come up.
Energy prices affect the competitiveness of the whole European economy. They represent on average 6% of annual household expenditure. About 2.2 million people are estimated employed in the sector across 90,000 enterprises. The EU Commission has presented regulatory proposals that aim to modernise the economy and boost investments in clean energy related sectors.
FLINN lawyers approach to energy legal and regulatory issues is down-to-earth and practical. FLINN lawyers’ experience includes: drafting the consortium agreement for establishment of a server farm/hosting facility and advising on the power supply contracts; advising on, notifying to the EU Commission and obtaining clearance for the acquisition of a major oil-refinery; advice on a national wholesale market for electricity including generation adequacy, capacity mechanisms and ancillary services and compliance with state aid rules; training on procedures for competition authority inspections (‘dawn raids’); as well as contributing to the Energy Charter Secretariat’s executive training program regarding arbitrations under the Energy Charter Treaty.
EU and Regulatory
EU and Regulatory laws govern cross-cutting issues that impact commercial activities across borders and across sectors. The EU Commission has particular responsibility for competition law and state aids as well as for customs rules and for the EU’s external trade policy. Non-discrimination, whether applied to the free movement of goods, services, capital or of EU citizens within the common EU market, is an underlying legal principle of the EU single-market. Framework regulation of energy (and environmental) policies and of data protection law has developed within the EU and is implemented by and within its Member States. FLINN offers you access to our in-depth experience of counselling clients on the crucial legal and regulatory compliance issues that arise.
- Competition – Anti-Trust & Dominance Issues
In very broad terms, the competition rules mean that it is not permitted to: directly or indirectly fix distributors prices; divide markets, discriminate among customers or distributors by applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions; tie-products or services or otherwise require unrelated supplementary obligations in relation to sales.
Any formal agreement or informal arrangement which prevents, restricts or distorts competition and which may affect trade between EU member states is prohibited.
An ‘arrangement’ does not need to be written down in a contract: side-letters, e-mails, conversations, may all be ‘arrangements’ for this purpose. Belgian competition law is in almost identical terms.
Any unilateral abuse of a dominant position within the EU or in a substantial part of it which affects trade between Member States is prohibited. Belgian competition law is in almost identical terms.
If you have any doubts FLINN is able to advise you about the application of competition law to your business. FLINN lawyers are also experienced in advising on Mergers and Acquisitions that have an EU dimension.
- State Aids
State aid implies that certain economic sectors, regions or activities are treated more favourably than others. State aid distorts competition to the extent that it discriminates between companies that receive ‘an advantage’ through state resources and those that do not. Nevertheless, granting such aid can be justified in certain circumstances.
The definition of state aid is very broad because ‘an advantage’ can take many forms. It is wide enough to include any selective economic benefit that an undertaking could not have obtained in the ordinary course of business. For example if a company obtains privileged access to finance or infrastructure.
On the other-hand the state aid rules recognize that certain kinds of investments, for example in broadband infrastructure, renewable energy, research development and innovation, may not happen without state support.
If you face the need to comment on plans that will potentially benefit a competitor or if you need advice about whether proposed benefits would be qualified as state aid that needs to be notified FLINN stand ready to provide you with clear advice.
- International Trade and Customs Law
The EU is based on a customs union which covers all trade in goods and applies a common external tariff to trade with non-member countries. It also involves the prohibition between EU Member States of customs duties on imports and exports and of any charges that have an equivalent effect.
FLINN advises on customs & trade laws including: import and export prohibitions, quantitative restrictions on imports, surveillance and protective measures under import rules; customs classification, access to the EU market and parallel imports, customs valuation procedures, customs warehousing and tariff suspension, procedures for entry of goods and post-clearance recovery of import duties.
The EU applies trade defence instruments in accordance with EU and WTO law, include safeguard measures, anti-dumping and anti-subsidy proceedings. The EU Commission examines complaints, and decides whether to launch investigations or review existing measures. Whether you wish to complain about unfair trade or need to respond to an EU investigation FLINN provides the legal services to support your business.
- Energy Law and Regulation
The EU Commission’s “Clean Energy for All Europeans” proposals, set forth in November 2016, are intended to support clean energy transition as a growth sector of the future. The legislative proposals cover energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for the Energy Union as well as a mobility strategy.
Transition from large-scale centralized power generation requires an increasing volume of variable (decentralized & intermittent) generation from renewables to be incorporated in the electricity grids. Variable renewable power generation requires greater flexibility in both generation and the electricity network itself. One important means of providing such flexibility, ‘market coupling’, enables cross-border trade in electricity across Europe. The physical links which support market-coupling are the Interconnectors which permit the transfer of electricity across borders. FLINN lawyers have actively participated in the workshops leading to the adoption of the Network Codes that provide the supporting framework for trade in cross-border EU electricity markets.
- Data Privacy
A new General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) will apply from 25 May 2018. As an EU Regulation the GDPR is directly applicable and does not, in principle, require national legislation to produce legal effects.
The GDPR embodies a new compliance philosophy which will see a stricter requirement to be able to demonstrate compliance in practice. In addition, regulatory authorities will have greater supervisory powers and tougher remedies, including fines of up to 4% of an undertaking’s total worldwide turnover.
The rights of data subjects are clarified by comparison with the existing legislation. A clear affirmative consent to data processing must be given (deeming provisions and pre-ticked boxes will no longer be acceptable). Data subjects must be provide with privacy information in clearly understandable, plain language.
In principle all sectors of economic activity will be affected and FLINN lawyers, who have long-term experience of advising on privacy rules beginning with implementation of the previous 1995 EU Data Privacy Directive, can advise you on your data-privacy programme and compliance of your web-site, contracts, transfers to third countries, including the USA.
The principle of accountability embodied in the GDPR system manifests itself in the requirements on public bodies to appoint a data privacy officer and on companies to do so where the core activities of the data controller or the data processor involve “regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale”. FLINN can assist regarding appointment of your Data Privacy Officer.
Family law & Private Clients
From a person’s birth to a person’s death, many rights, obligations and legal issues arise from many different areas of the Law relating to such person. For instance, to name but a few, in Civil Law: residency, marriage, cohabitation, separation, divorce and adoption; in Judicial Law: community regulations and private international law; in Corporate Law: private foundations, family trust companies and partnerships; and in Tax Law: matrimonial regimes and estate planning. We have experience in these matters and issues and will be pleased to share it with you and help you understand and deal with all these things that affect your personal life.
Collaborative family law enables couples contemplating the termination of their relationship to work together with our team to achieve this in a smooth and orderly fashion. We work in cooperation with other professionals, as needed, so that the mutually-agreed upon settlement covers not only legal aspects but also the financial, accounting, medical, health and well-being and any other aspects specific to the case at hand. Collaboration over Litigation.
Global mobility has brought forth many family law issues which have ramifications, causes and effects in more than one country. We are also frequently consulted on such matters and work and liaise with professionals from the appropriate jurisdictions, as and when necessary, to propose effective solutions to these international issues.
Our Family Law & Private Client services include the following:
– Collaborative Family Law
– Family Trust Companies and Private Foundations
– Pre-Nuptial, Marriage and Cohabitation Agreements
– Separation, Divorce and Other Matrimonial Conflicts
– Wills, Estates and Successions Planning
– Gifts and Donations
– Incapacity, Adoption, Tutorship, Emancipation
– Intra-EU and Private International Family Law
The fashion industry, as the public sees it, is a very upscale and highfalutin affair! However those of us who work closely within the industry know that, like for many other industries, many issues may arise. Just ask yourself who the actors of this industry are. Obvious answer: the fashion designers, models, photographers and agencies. For sure, but add at least the following: manufacturers, distributors, licensees, agents, representatives, directors, graphic designers, programmers, the media (and many more) and then you may begin noticing all that is involved. The fashion industry truly touches upon most areas of the law….. and then some! Be it IP rights and issues, including illegal reproduction and counterfeiting, distribution, employment and social law issues: we have experience in all of this and can help you see your way through.
Our services include, among many others:
– Protection of IP Rights and drafting/negotiation of related Agreements
– Distribution and License Agreements
– Unfair competition, Infringement, Counterfeit and related proceedings
– Advertising and Media Agreements
– Marking and Labelling
– Non-Disclosure Agreements
– Related Corporate and Commercial Issues
– Product Liability and General Liability Issues
Innovation and start-ups
So, you’ve had the idea, perhaps you’ve also built the web-site and chosen a name – but how are you going to turn those initial steps into a business? Some things you might want to consider:
- Who are you going into business with? Can your business take the form of a partnership – or do you need to constitute a company? If a company, who will initially own the shares and in what proportion?
- Where will you look for funding? Will you be seeking capital from venture capital funds or business angels – or will a business loan from a bank be sufficient. Do you have already have the business plan ready so that you are able to make approaches for funding effectively?
- Are loans and grants available, would they for example, allow you to take on an employee on advantageous terms – or perhaps help with renting premises?
- You may need a Director’s contract yourself – and what about the employment contract for the first employee?
- You need to protect precious intellectual property but what about know-how or trade secrets that are not registrable as such? How do you register a design?
- Will you be licensing technology or do you need contracts with terms and conditions for the sale of your products or services?
- If you’re selling online, what steps must you take to be compliant with on-line sales law and data privacy laws?
Having a checklist is useful – but a conversation with a FLINN lawyer will be more effective – and we will not charge you for the first hour.
FLINN offers legal and business advice on the selection of the most appropriate operational structure when exploiting intellectual property rights, joining collective management organisations (also referred to as “collecting societies”) and drafting of agreements. FLINN is also consulted for ‘due diligence’ assignments regarding the IP/IT rights that are the subject of Mergers or Acquisitions and also with respect to litigating any of such IP rights, either as a plaintiff or defendant.
Copyrights protect literary and artistic works that are ‘original’ creations. Copyrights and related rights are essentially exclusive rights under which the proprietor can prohibit others from reproducing his or her works or communicating them or making them available to the public. Increasingly, the subject matter of copyrights is harmonised across borders. This is accomplished through treaties at the international level, and through directives and explanatory case law within the EU.
A comprehensive understanding of the relevant legislation and case law – together with insight into the practices in the sector – is necessary if you, as an author, composer, artist, producer, broadcaster or other entitled party, wish to protect and exploit your rights.
FLINN’s lawyers have built up strong practical experience in the drafting and negotiating of author agreements (including publishing agreements), artist agreements, license agreements (including obtaining consent, so called ‘clearances’, for dubbing in radio and television spots or films, adaptations and/or translations), distribution agreements, production agreements, broadcasting agreements, and other creative sector agreements. Clear insight into the interests and mechanisms of the creative sector distinguishes FLINN’s contracts advice. In addition, where necessary, FLINN advises on the most appropriate legal proceedings to enforce those rights. (See infringements counselling below).
- Database Protection
Databases are increasingly important in all sectors of twenty-first-century economies. FLINN will be pleased to advise you on optimising protection of your database rights including for websites. In addition, we are consulted about the enforcement of rights; including legal disputes (see Infringements Counselling below).
The purpose of the March 1996 EU Directive on the legal protection of databases was to create a new (and in part sui generis) harmonised legal regime for the protection of database rights in Europe. It defines databases as ‘a collection of independent works, data or other materials arranged in a systematic or methodical way and individually accessible by electronic or other means’.
Two kinds of protection are provided:
The database right (the ‘sui generis’ right) – protects substantial investment made by database producers in obtaining, verifying and presenting database contents.
Database copyright protection arises from the structure of the database, where the selection and arrangement of the database’s contents, shows intellectual creativity. (Copyright protection of databases is part of existing EU international WTO obligations.)
A 2005 evaluation found that the sui generis protection was used in various fields by different companies, among which publishing, news agencies, telecom, direct marketing, bioscience and mapping companies – but the scope of the sui generis right was unclear. A new evaluation is underway and a report is due in the first quarter of 2018. The evaluation will focus mainly on the sui generis protection.
Not surprisingly, intellectual property protection plays an important role in regulating the creation and use of designs. Depending on the case at hand, the appropriate protection regime to be relied may include: the registered design system established by the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property (marks and designs) of February 25, 2005; Copyright protection provided by the Law of June 30, 1994, on Copyright and Neighbouring Rights; and the ‘unregistered design right’ protection laid down by Council Regulation (EC) No 6/2002 of 12 December 2001 on Community designs.
FLINN offers assistance and follow-up advice before and after Design registration. Including, among other things, on the drafting and negotiation of production and license agreements. Since 2010, we have been designated representatives of the Union of Designers in Belgium (UDB). UDB is the only recognized national professional association of interior architects, interior designers, graphic designers and product developers. We are also consulted about the enforcement of rights; including legal disputes (see Infringements Counselling below).
A patent is a limited monopoly that is granted in return for the disclosure of technical information. In order to obtain such a right, the applicant is required to disclose his invention so that it can be used by a ‘person skilled in the art’. In return, the state issues the applicant with a patent that gives him the exclusive right to control the way his patented invention is exploited for a twenty-year period. While the protection provided by a patent is not as long as the protection provided by copyright law or trademark registration (with renewals), the rights granted are more extensive. The rights granted to the patent owner cover most commercial uses of the patented invention. In addition, the rights will be infringed irrespective of whether or not the defendant copied from the patented invention.
A patent can be applied for at the national and the international level (European Patent Convention). Since 2012 several components for a Unitary Patent Protection (also referred to as “the European patent with unitary effect” or the “European Union patent”) have been approved at the European level by way of regulations and a corresponding treaty.
FLINN is consulted about disputes under patent law (see further Infringements Counselling below) and for technology transfers. If so desired, cooperation with external technical experts takes place. We also offer advice with regard to the favourable tax measures for patent income that offer considerable financial advantages for proprietors of inventions.
A trademark confers on the proprietor certain exclusive rights to use a particular sign in relation to specified commercial activities. The sign (word, image, form, colour or even a scent) must be capable of distinguishing the goods and services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings. Accurate trademark protection may become a company’s most important asset. For instance, the ‘Apple’ brand is estimated to be worth approximately $ 170 billion, ‘Google’ $ 102 billion, and ‘Coca Cola’ approximately $ 56 billion. Such commercial value is impossible without protection of the associated trademarks.
Once a trademark (word, image, form, colour or even smell) has been registered the trademark proprietor may, on the basis of the grant of an exclusive right to use, and under well-defined conditions, prohibit any third party from using an identical or similar mark. A trademark can be registered at several levels: at the national (for example Benelux), the EU or the international level.
- Infringements counselling
FLINN is consulted regarding enforcement of copyrights, database rights, design rights (incl. fashion), patents and trademarks, and the exploitation thereof (e.g. franchise and license agreements). Failing an amicable solution, proceedings are instituted, and (where appropriate) the customs authorities are involved, in order to block counterfeit or infringing goods. In the case of infringements of a patent the most accurate strategy is elaborated: potentially including licensing of Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) on Fair Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms. If an amicable solution cannot be found, FLINN will institute proceedings on your behalf.
Leisure and Hospitality
We group within the Hospitality and Leisure sector: travel, lodging and leisure, as well as related activities and industries, such as airlines and hotels, car hires, the purchase of holiday packages, lodging and travel, whether online booking or not, as well as the hotel industry, restaurants and cafés, sports and other leisure activities. We will make ours, any of your issues within, and as you know, they can be very upsetting. This is one of the reasons why numerous regulations have been adopted and come into play (pun intended), including consumer protection rules which apply nationally, Europe-wide and even world-wide! So on whichever side of an argument you may be, or just for information and advice as to your rights and obligations, do not hesitate to call upon our experts to help.
Life and Health Sciences
Wikipedia® informs us that Life Sciences “comprise the branches of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms – such as microorganisms, plants, animals, and human beings – as well as related considerations like bioethics; whereas Health Sciences are applied sciences that address the use of science, technology, engineering or mathematics in the delivery of healthcare to human beings.” As technology evolves and we pay greater care and attention our physical selves, our health and wellbeing, information and knowledge on these sciences and related issues has become accessible at the click of a mouse; hence the “recent” development of this area. It covers biology, bioengineering, genetics, medicine, and each of their sub-sets, as well as alternative medicine and other disciplines and practices, whether regulated or not, which have an effect on our health and wellbeing.
There may come a time in your life, either early or late, that you get involved with a non-profit organization or charity. It may be that you will participate as a donor, a founder, an executive, a board member or other stakeholder. Non-profits are always formed with the intent of not making profits and for this reason, they are governed by a specific set of rules, including surrounding their revenues, expenses and taxation. However, this does not mean that they cannot have revenues and raise funds at all! Such revenues must always be redirected to the main intent of the non-profit or charity and serve that purpose. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to obtain a special tax status for a non-profit or charity. Many international non-profit organizations are situated in Brussels and for many reasons which, if you are interested, our experts can explain.
A specific sector of Life Sciences and Health law, pharmaceutical law concerns intellectual property and competition law in particular. Key issues include patents, patent licensing and patent extensions, generic products market entry and abuse of a dominant position. Since its 2008 pharmaceutical sector inquiry the EU Commission implemented annual monitoring of patent settlements – to understand the use of patent settlements and identify so-called ‘pay-for-delay’ agreements where the settlement is potentially being used to delay market entry of generic medicines to the detriment of EU consumers.
The EU legal framework for medicinal products for human use is based on the principle that medicinal products may only be placed on the market following specific authorisation – the conditions for which have been progressively harmonised across the whole European Economic Area. Even when a medicinal product is placed on the market, its safety continues to be monitored through the EU system of pharmacovigilance. Pharmaceutical pricing, state funding and parallel imports remain important issues within the EU and indeed worldwide even if the organisation of their health care sectors remains primarily the responsibility of individual Member States.
Professional Practice and Ethical Rules
The practice of a profession or your membership of an association or body of professionals entails certain obligations, following rules and regulations, including specific ethical rules. We can help you weave through these rules and regulations to make sure you respect them in your practice. Additionally, should you be involved in any recourse or proceeding with respect to the practice of your profession, we have the experience to represent you and help resolve any such type of conflict for your benefit.
As a professional body, your focus is on the ethical standards and values of the profession, preserving the interests of your members as well as those of the public. You are continuously challenged to keep your code of conduct in line with the evolution of the markets and of society in general. You need to ensure that each individual member subscribes these essential values and acts and practices consequently. We can assist you with the review and update of your ethical code and disciplinary procedures, as warranted, to make sure they are in accordance with the various applicable requirements, for example with respect to competition regulations, the right to due process, specific professional rules, etc.
‘Retail’ used to be understood in terms of the B2C relationship of selling and purchasing relatively small quantities of goods for final consumption – usually in a shop. Things have changed. Retail goods can be sold through many channels including in a physical store (what we sometimes call bricks and mortar) or kiosk (may even be in the ‘pop-up’ format), by mail and ‘on-line’ or ‘in-app’ using e-commerce or m-commerce. Laws and regulations govern all of these types of sales and the goods and services as well as their method of delivery to consumers are affected by these rules. Specific rules govern food, cosmetics, medicines, natural products, commodities, groceries, pharmaceutical products; the list is almost endless! Whether you are a vendor or consumer, FLINN will help you make sense of these rules and explain their impact on your purchase or sale.
What comes to mind when you mention the word “Software”? Probably Apple, Microsoft, and these days the cyber-security software companies, for obvious reasons. Software is omnipresent and beginning to appear in less obvious places such as home appliances, furniture and cars. The digital era creates numerous legal challenges. They are related, among other things, to the privacy and the protection of (personal) data, intellectual property (apart from the traditional exclusivity rights like the copyrights and the trademark rights there is also question of legal protection for computer programs, databases, semiconductor chips, and domain names), electronic commerce, and agreements via the internet, typical ICT agreements for the development of computer programs and the supply of certain information services (‘Service Level Agreements’, cloud computing, etc.), the legal validity of the electronic signature, rules about online advertising and spam, the freedom of expression via the internet. FLINN will guide through the process to make sure your rights are respected and users respect their obligations.
Visual Arts and Design
Visual Arts don’t only seduce art lovers and collectors, but also play a social role by bringing together like-minded people or by provoking the establishment. They reflect the soul of the artist and sometimes of an entire era or society. Although numerous people are gifted with a creative talent, only few want or can make a living out of it. Once part of the professional circuit, many legal challenges cross the paths of artists, gallery managers and art collectors.
Our visual arts services include the following:
– Contracts, drafting and negotiations, between artists and galleries
– Advice and services with respect to arts purchases and sales, including due diligence aspects
– Resolution of disputes on authenticity, plagiarism and liability
Designs are applied forms of artistic craftsmanship and play an important but often neglected part in our daily lives. As well as influencing the appearance of the clothes we wear, the shape of the chairs we sit in and the surfboards we ride, design also influences the decisions we make as consumers: why it is we choose one toothbrush over another. The practice of design covers a wide variety of domains. These range from industrial design, urban planning, graphic design and stage design through to costume design, fashion design, product design and packaging design.
Our design services include drafting and negotiating contracts between creatives and producers, producers and manufacturers, producers and distributors; as well as solving disputes with respect to the transfer of intellectual property rights, manufacture or distribution contracts, and the infringement of rights.