JUVE Law Firm of the year

Trademarks and Unfair Competition

Digitalization changing the face of advice

Nowadays, digitalization is practically unavoidable. Even in trademarks and unfair competition it is generating demand for advice. The protection of trade secrets and know-how are just some of the issues posing huge challenges to companies: an EU directive that came into force in 2016 seeks to strengthen this protection. This has to be implemented in German law by summer 2018 at the latest and is already leading to a sizeable amount of work in IP practices.

The interface between IP rights and online distribution has been keeping lawyers and the judiciary busy for a while now, and the monitoring of Internet and data protection violations is growing in importance for brand manufacturers. Other issues such as geo-blocking and influencer marketing constitute new legal territory. “There is hardly any case law for these yet, and it will be exciting to explore the boundaries,” said one IP litigator.

IP practices primed for digitalization

Soft IP practices may operate in a field that is less susceptible to economic trends, but the competition among lawyers is heating up. Firms like DLA Piper or Fieldfisher are energetically developing their IP practices. These and the traditional major players like CMS Hasche Sigle and Hogan Lovells are investing heavily in building up their own digital solutions and are quickly adapting their advice to the new requirements.

But as far as the high-profile civil law trademark and design infringement proceedings and unfair competition disputes go, digitalization has yet to bring a noticeable advantage, which is why the visibility of traditional boutiques like Harmsen Utescher and Lorenz Seidler Gossel remains unchanged. Both are staying true to their one-office policy, while other firms like Lubberger Lehment and CBH Rechtsanwälte are widening their regional scope: Lubberger launched in Munich, though CBH made a bigger splash with four new offices; in soft IP, the arrival of the entire Hamburg Preu Bohlig office should bolster the firm considerably.

As steady as work for IP advisors may be, some large international firms are still struggling because of their structures. WilmerHale parted ways with its formal trademarks practice when its Frankfurt IP team moved to Squire Patton Boggs. The field of prosecution is under even heavier competitive pressure, as large mixed firms like Boehmert & Boehmert and even IP service providers can offer this work at a low price without the profitability pressure of a large firm.


The practice areas trademarks, design law and unfair competition are dealt with in one chapter. This is because in specialist firms these fields often overlap. Clients are often advised on all of the fields by one firm. Specialties can vary considerably, however, and there are also areas, such as advice on marketing campaigns or portfolio management, where overlaps are less common. Because the perception and position of the firms in the market can also differ, this chapter includes separate ranking tables for trademarks and unfair competition. In terms of trademarks, there are also numerous mixed firms comprising patent attorneys and lawyers active in the market; however, these are dealt with in this chapter only if the lawyers also conduct extensive civil law litigation and are well known in the market for this. Trademark and unfair competition aspects often play an important role in distribution and franchising ( ?distribution, trade and logistics). Please also see the chapters ?food law and ?pharmaceuticals and healthcare. Firms’ expertise in copyrights is dealt with in the ?media chapter because of the close links between this legal material and the TV, film, entertainment and publishing sectors.

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