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Extensive business and intellectual property protection in Flanders

In Flanders, intellectual property rights are enforced by the Belgian Court, while the Belgian Competition Authority – a federal government agency – handles complaints, notifications, investigations, and makes all decisions related to competition law.

Here’s a brief overview of what else you should know about business and intellectual property protection in Flanders.

A clear-cut process for mergers and acquisitions

The Competition College of the Belgian Competition Authority will automatically approve any merger or acquisition that results in a company or group of companies with a combined market share of less than 25%. Mergers or acquisitions that reduce the competitiveness of the Belgian market, or a significant part of it, will be declined.

There are 5 phases to the filing of the notification of a merger or acquisition:

  1. First phase – the notification is determined to be acceptable or inadmissible.
  2. Second phase – the Competition College performs further investigations, if necessary, and submits a revised decision.
  3. Simplified procedure – parties may apply for a simplified procedure.
  4. Appeal – parties may appeal the College’s decision before the Court of Appeal.
  5. Restrictive practices – if specific business practices restrict competition, they may be prohibited and result in fines.

How to protect your intellectual property

Various options for trademark protection

Trademarks – any sign or combination of signs used to identify your products from products manufactured or sold by others – can be protected via the Belgian administration, or at the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property at The Hague.

Good to know:

  • Trademark protection that is sought in Belgium applies to the Netherlands, Belgium, and The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This costs EUR 600, minus VAT.
  • There is also the option of obtaining trademark protection throughout all EU member states. This costs EUR 2,500 excluding VAT, and must be applied for at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in Alicante, Spain.

Copyright protection up to 70 years after last surviving author

Copyrights protect artistic or literary works from the moment the original expression is created, without registration. In Belgium and Flanders as a region, it is valid for up to 70 years after the death of the author, or the last surviving author. It includes:

  • the right to control the method of reproduction and communication of the work;
  • the right to have authorship known;
  • the right to decide when the work will be disclosed;
  • the right to oppose modification of the work.

Patent protection for 20 years

Patent protection covers inventions that are new, involve an inventive step, and that are useful to industry – even if they contain biological material or a process that involves or uses biological material. Patents are governed by the Belgian Patent Act. There is no Community Patent available, but an inventor can receive a bundle off national patents through a centralized procedure. Patent holders have the right to exploit, grant licenses to or assign the patent, with some exceptions.

Patent protection lasts for 20 years, the holder must pay annual taxes that amount to EUR 545 by the 20th year.

Various other IP protections

Additionally, you can obtain protection in Belgium, and Flanders as a region, for:

  • software;
  • designs and models;
  • databases;
  • trade secrets;
  • confidential information;
  • special know-how.

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