Sometimes your career as an attorney can start with an innocuous discussion in an elevator in New York City whilst you are planning to become a judge. Read more about it in our interview with Prof. Dr. Henning Harte-Bavendamm, founder of the Hamburg IP law firm HARTE-BAVENDAMM, nominee for JUVE IP Law Firm of the Year 2019.
HARTE-BAVENDAMM was established in 2008 as an IP boutique by Henning Harte-Bavendamm after leaving Allen & Overy together with his two associates, Michael Goldmann and Karolina Schöler, who became junior partners of the new firm. The firm focuses on trademark and unfair competition law, copyright and design law, information technology and life sciences. The firm advises a number of international blue-chip clients including Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Levi Strauss, Volkswagen, Gruner+Jahr and Deutsche Bahn, as well as medium-sized companies in the pharmaceutical sector and other industries such as fashion, high-end furniture, software and consulting.
What does the nomination mean for you / the law firm?
The nomination highlights our team’s visibility on the domestic legal market and its successful cross-border work for German and international groups and companies. It is the fourth nomination by JUVE (Editorial: HARTE-BAVENDAMM was elected as JUVE law firm of the Year for Trademarks and Unfair Competition Law, after being nominated in 2009, as well in 2013). It is both a welcome reassurance of our past strategy and a gentle reminder that being on the radar screen is another reason for setting the right priorities and foresight to adapt to new developments in the future.
We are living through an era of change and disruption. As a result, the value and visibility of IP has increased. How has your firm adapted to these changes?
In the IP field we have gone through an era of change for more than 20 years. This is particularly due to the ever-increasing degree of “Europeanization” of almost all categories of intellectual property rights. This process started with the harmonization of trade mark law and the creation of the Community trade mark (now the Union trade mark), followed by similar legislation with respect to design law and in specific sectors of copyright law, not to mention the ever-lasting efforts regarding the UPC. Today even unfair competition law, in spite of its very diverse national concepts, is more and more influenced (or should we say regulated?) by European Directives. The most recent example is the new Trade Secrets Act which transformed the EU Trade Secrets Directive into German law and is characterized by a lot of new risks and opportunities for trade secret holders.
This means that we have to keep up to and partly even foresee the rapid development of EU law. The trends and court rulings in other Member States also deserve much more attention than in a more distant past because they may have an impact on the future judgments of the European Court of Justice. This is both challenging and exciting – and for young lawyers the fundamental and rapid change of the law makes it much more attractive to enter the profession in a situation where even the most experienced lawyers need to keep learning all the time.
And we certainly agree that the value and visibility of IP has substantially increased over the past ten years or more. In many industries the IP rights have become the most valuable assets and consequently attract much more attention of the top management. The combination of deep and broad know-how regarding “genuine” IP work and the experience we gathered through the partners’ “former professional life” in big international law firms probably helps us to understand how, from a boardroom perspective, IP issues are embedded in the overall strategy of a global player or the owner of a “hidden champion” from the German Mittelstand.
The IP sector is highly niche. What led you personally into this career path?
In my case this was due to an “accident”. Initially, my main area of interest used to be administrative law and constitutional law. However, during the last phase of my legal education I spent six months in New York. In an elevator of the World Trade Center I happened to meet Dr. Dietrich Ohlgart who was a Partner within one of the oldest and most reputable German IP firms. We stayed in contact and after having passed my Second State Exam I was offered a job in that firm. That’s how everything started. I assume that I am not the only one who stumbled into IP and competition law in a comparable way…
Absolutely not! Looking back to the beginning of HARTE-BAVENDAMM – what were the premier reasons for going back into a small law firm set up and would you make the step again?
Working with Allen & Overy was an interesting and exciting time in my career, covering international transactional work. On the other hand, it showed me that for international law firms with a focus on transactional work it is difficult to cover clients’ high-quality demand with respect to all facets of IP law and adjacent areas. It is part of our DNA (and even confirmed in our partnership Agreement) to actively participate in the development of German and European intellectual property law by publishing books and articles, lecturing at universities and keeping close contact to the German IP Association (GRUR) and the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV).
Beside this I personally prefer to support and to develop the best legal talent for the future of the law firm, while international law firms tend to increasingly make their decisions from a pure business perspective. At HARTE-BAVENDAMM we are proud of the fact that our next generation of lawyers already get the recognition in the market, which is necessary to develop their client base and allows us to grow the firm organically.