HGF | One of Europe’s foremost IP specialist
In 2016, the British IP specialist established in The Hague. Their arrival adds to the growing Legal & Finance cluster in the city. We spoke to Achim Krebs, Partner HGF, about their choice for The Hague and recent developments in the region.
HGF comes from the United Kingdom. Can you tell us a little about HGF?
“HGF was founded in 1995 as a patent firm in the North of England (the initials stand for the surnames of the original founders, Harrison, Goddard and Foote). The company grew initially regionally, but in the new millennium engaged into an unrivalled expansion throughout the UK, and finally onto the continent, with a first foothold in the Hague. In this relatively short period (at least for the IP world), HGF has grown from modest beginnings to one of Europe’s foremost Intellectual Property specialists.”
You once said that the Dutch office was meant as a starting point to explore and expand your business in Europe. What’s the current status of these plans, and has your business been affected by the Brexit?
“The opening of our office here in the Hague has been followed by the opening of an office in Basel, and very recently we have opened a second office in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam. This will certainly not be the last expansion, as we are looking at for instance the German, Belgian and French markets. Of course we are deeply concerned by the effect that Brexit may have on both the UK and the European Community.
The Netherlands have historically always been an easier starting point for UK companies entering the European market, and so our two offices here are a good starting point for becoming truly European. This will also balance our exposure to the British market, and of course make our offerings to overseas clients more varied, and more valuable. And we are currently in the process of becoming a truly European firm.”
To what extend has the presence of organizations like European Patent Office, the Dutch Patent Office (Nederlands Octrooicentrum) and the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (Benelux Merkenbureau) been of influence in your decision for The Hague?
“The Hague is a real hotspot for IP, offering an almost unrivalled concentration of IP related institutions, both national and international. Also, the relevant Dutch courts with exclusive jurisdiction on IP matters are based here. While in present days there is less of a necessity to be located at the doorstep of these offices, it has been very useful to be based here, for instance for hosting colleagues and clients for opposition proceedings taking place at the EPO on a number of occasions. To put this in perspective, there are about 3500 opposition case pending at the EPO at the Hague, roughly on par with the EPO at Munich. In the Benelux, The Hague stands out as the city with the largest amount of patent attorneys, certainly when counting surrounding cities such as Delft and Leiden into the equation.”
The city of The Hague will be home to the local division of the Unified Patent Court? Does this bring any opportunities for HGF?
“The advent of the UPC is likely going to be a step-change in the Patents world, and is expected to have an impact similar to the foundation of the EPO in 1978. And the Hague is of course the ideal location for the UPC. HGF also has a law firm, and we are actively looking into representing clients directly before the UPC. As an anecdote, I personally had been shortlisted as a candidate technical judge at the UPC – it would be really interesting to settle on the opposite side of the court room!”
In general what do you think would be the biggest opportunity for The Hague to strengthen its international position for the Legal & Finance cluster?
“I think that the financial sector is going through a tremendous amount of change – as will the legal sector. The Hague appears already well positioned for the latter, and with the advent of “Fintech”, there might be a real opportunity to attract start-ups and technology companies. Also the security cluster will become relevant in my opinion, offering the potential for synergies. The Hague should listen carefully to the people in these clusters, and help accommodate or facilitate the changes.”
You recently opened a second office in Amsterdam. What way does this office related to the office in The Hague?
Our office in Amsterdam is focusing mainly on trademarks, and we have had the rare opportunity to attract three very senior, reputed and outstanding trade mark attorneys. Our Hague office on the other hand focusses mainly on patents, i.e. protection of technology, and as such we are complementary, and have already started working together closely.
You live in The Hague. What do you personally find the most attractive about The Hague?
“The Hague offers a unique combination of a sea side resort and an administrative capital, and as such there are very few cities in Europe with a similar setting. And it is a very green town, with a somewhat relaxed attitude, which makes it particularly great for families. Moving here from one of the many stations I had passed through previously, I felt welcome from the beginning. And of course – the beaches in summer are a real plus – so I have the privilege to work and live where others come for a holiday. Beat that!”
Any future plans or upcoming events you want to share with our public?
“We are planning on growing this office further – and always are looking for ways for making our offerings better and more useful for our clients. And we are looking to host events – watch this space!”
Fore more information about HGF, please visit www.hgf.com