Start-ups

Start-ups are fully integrated into the modern economic fabric. Some of them have even become catalysts for the most innovative and disruptive of projects, especially in the world of digital, data and technology.

They typically start out with limited human and financial resources and, depending on their activities, are sometimes required to navigate in highly regulated markets.

Our expertise

Simont Braun has lengthy experience working with start-ups. We accompany start-ups throughout their journey, from polishing their idea before launch, ensuring that it is both legally compliant and commercially feasible, to helping them grow. We enjoy in-depth knowledge of the regulatory and market constraints and opportunities and will help you to understand the motivation of consumers and companies in the relevant sector.

Our multi-disciplinary Digital Finance team notably provides day-to-day support to disruptive start-ups seeking to enter the highly regulated banking and financial market.

Simont Braun also advises start-ups on Corporate, Intellectual Property, Employment and Data Protection matters.

Our approach

Simont Braun’s lawyers are convinced that adequate guidance starts with a comprehensive understanding of the start-up’s project in all its technical, commercial and human aspects.

Accordingly, our teams always begin by obtaining a clear and complete grasp of you, your ideas and your business plan.

Our lawyers keep fully up to date with the most significant technological innovations (blockchain, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, cryptocurrencies, etc.) and are well-integrated within the tech community, especially digital finance. We are therefore able to provide practical, up-to-date and legally compliant solutions.

We also maintain excellent contacts with the Belgian regulators, a vital factor when a start-up requires a licence to commence operations.

Once the project has been launched, we maintain close cooperation with our clients, whether in the context of business diversification, growth or regulatory developments.

Some recent work with start-ups

We have provided advisory services to several Belgian and foreign start-ups for the incorporation of their legal entity, the drafting of their client terms and conditions and the roll-out of their activities, mainly in technology and financial services.

 

Real Estate

The Belgian Real Estate sector has recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and is once again enjoying strong growth. The housing market in particular is flourishing, especially developments exploiting new construction techniques. Public-sector investment is also on the rise.

Against this background and combined with the ever-growing volume of new legislation, real estate projects must always pay special attention to the legal aspects.

Our expertise

Our Real Estate team enjoys extensive experience and competence in the various real estate sectors: urban planning, PPPs, leases, construction contracts, corporate structuring and real estate finance.

At the pre-contractual level, we are recognised for our ability to structure operations, perform due diligence and provide effective guidance during the development of town planning projects. Our teams also enjoy a strong reputation thanks to their experience in negotiating and drafting all types of contract documentation. We offer a vast range of services, notably in real estate law, administrative law, corporate law and tax law.

We operate in the housing sector and in office and retail developments. We have also developed expertise in infrastructure for private investors, real estate developers, contractors and other construction stakeholders, as well as for public authorities.

We strive to provide a service of excellence combined with a keen awareness of the practical constraints, all in full compliance with client’s strategy and expectations.

 

Public Sector

With all aspects of public sector activities being highly regulated, it is vital to optimise the impact of the various layers of applicable legislation, while effectively handling business and political considerations.

Dealing with public entities can be very different from dealing with private entities. Handling these differences has become a necessity for businesses, especially in the current economic and political environment where governments are cutting costs, privatising and selling off assets, exploiting and/or terminating public-private partnerships and, in some areas, increasing public sector spending.   

Our expertise

Simont Braun has an outstanding track record in assisting a wide range of public entities, from governments to public utilities providers, covering major projects and the most complex of questions, whether at the global, cross-border or local public sector level.

Our team has gained substantial experience advising clients on real estate matters, on administrative contracts including service concession or public procurement and on environmental law, corporate law, labour law, tax law, etc.

We advise major operators in all sectors, including infrastructure, telecommunications, financial markets, healthcare, transport and utilities (e.g. energy and water). Our clients are public authorities, financial institutions, regulatory bodies, utilities and private companies.

We are particularly well-positioned to advise on highly complex and multi-disciplinary real estate cases involving public/administrative and corporate law issues, thanks to the integrated approach adopted by our lawyers specialising in corporate, real estate, town planning and public procurement law. At Simont Braun, a single team is capable of handling such multidisciplinary projects, while providing advice for the most complex of matters that arise in these areas. This is acknowledged as a major asset by our clients, who particularly appreciate this integrated method combined with a high level of specialisation.

Our team also regularly advises public authorities on the exercise of their powers and actively participates in legislative processes; we have drafted a complete recast of the Housing Code for the region of Bruxelles-Capitale (Brussels). It has also prepared the legislative texts relating to servitudes of STIB/MIVB (the public transport company for Brussels) within the context of the Metro Nord project. Manuela von Kuegelgen regularly gives seminars to entities such as Citydev (a public entity for the development of Brussels) and STIB/MIVB.

As a result of our experience, we enjoy a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced in the public sphere and are able to offer our clients the best possible assistance, enhanced by the ability to adopt a private sector perspective.

Non-Profit Organisations

Non-profit organizations conduct a diverse range of public and private-sector projects covering many areas of services and activities, from culture to health, environment and heritage conservation.

They exist in a variety of forms (ASBL, foundations, AISBL, endowment funds, social enterprises, etc.) and are subject to a specific legal framework, although there is an observable trend to soften differentiation vis-à-vis companies.

In light of the diversity of non-profit organizations activities and modes of financing, a multi-disciplinary approach is crucial if compressive and bespoke guidance is to be provided, especially as participants are personally exposed to major risks.

Our areas of work

Simont Braun has longstanding experience in advising a wide range of non-profit organizations on all aspects of their existence, from incorporation to dissolution, and from the most common to the most complex and unique of issues. Simont Braun advises academic entities, charities, foundations, cultural institutions, etc. Our in-depth expertise allows us to act as a single point of service delivery.

We are especially aware of what sets non-profit organizations apart and of the business and political constraints they face. We are therefore able to offer realistic, pragmatic and cost-effective solutions.

Simont Braun has notably gained substantial experience in assisting non-profit organizations in the following areas:

  • Real estate and administrative law: selection of premises, lease agreements, administrative procedures, etc.;
  • Corporate law: incorporation, corporate governance, etc.;
  • A wide range of labor law questions;
  • Intellectual property issues: commercial denomination, trademarks, copyright, etc.;

Significant recent assignments  

  • Incorporating a public utility foundation operating in the environment sector (reintroduction and colonization of flora and fauna);
  • Negotiating a lease agreement for premises used by a major healthcare charity;
  • Updating and restructuring the articles of association of an ASBL working for the promotion of musical art and organizing international virtuoso competitions;
  • Shareholding restructuring project for a public transportation company;
  • Restructuring of the TV distribution activities for a municipal ASBL.

 

Marketing, e-Commerce and Retail

Be it online or in the ‘real world’, marketing, advertising and the selling of products and services raise many legal issues regarding consumer protection, safety, labelling, advertising and sales practices (mainly under EU directives transposed into national rules).

Data protection also becomes a key aspect of new marketing strategies, with e-commerce making such issues more international and complex than ever.

Advertising is not only a matter of consumer protection but also an essential marketing tool that will be closely monitored by your competitors.

Where should you start?

Does your website comply with e-commerce rules? Is your brand sufficiently protected? Which legislation applies to the products or services in question? Can you use the same advertising anywhere? What about explicit or implied comparison in your advertising? Many such questions arise every day.

Simont Braun assists professional bodies, communications agencies, online merchants and Belgian and foreign businesses regarding distributorships, sector-specific rules, anti-competitive practices, trademarks, copyright, online sales, offline and online T&Cs, advertising, parasitic behaviour, promotional and other trade practices, consumer protection, GDPR compliance, etc.

Our approach

We focus on the market realities and your commercial needs when handling such matters, whether in the context of negotiating and drafting contracts, dispute resolution or opinions.

Our team is well-versed in negotiating with the competent administrative and professional bodies, such as Economic Inspection, the Gaming Commission, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products, the media supervisors including Mediaraad and Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) and the Advertising Council (JEP).

Some of our recent assignments in this sector:

  • Setting-up various forms of distribution schemes and handling related questions, such as exclusive distributorships, agencies, sale commissionaires, sales on consignment, pre-contractual information, logistics services (warehousing, transport), confidentiality contracts and ‘home party’ marketing formulas;
  • Assistance provided to a large Belgian online retailer in order to obtain a consumer credit licence and ensuring that their operating model is fully compliant with applicable anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regulations;
  • Successful defence of an importer of generic drugs in the context of judicial proceedings regarding an advertising campaign;
  • Support for the preparation of a TV spot for the 2018 Football World Cup (ambush marketing issues);
  • Assistance before the Gaming Commission regarding an allegedly prohibited game of chance;
  • Assistance provided to a supermarket chain during court proceedings over price comparisons and access to the underlying data.

 

Luxury Goods

In our globalised world, where online selling has become the norm, preserving brand reputation and guaranteeing the highest quality have become a major challenge in the luxury goods sector. But the new patterns of consumption also create opportunities for manufacturers of luxury goods. Maintaining the presence of the products in the ‘real’ world requires a delicate balancing act in order to comply with the competition rules on passive sales and presence on the web. A solid and long-term strategy is required to cover distribution and brand protection. It is also vital to protect these assets from attacks by competitors and pirates.

Several teams collaborate within Simont Braun to provide assistance to a wide range of operators in this field. Our Intellectual Property team enjoys particular experience in trademark litigation matters and in all questions relating to advertising and distribution.

In addition to distributorships, anti-competitive practices, trade practices and other matters of general economic law, our specific recent experience in this sector includes:

  • Trademark protection and enforcement
  • Design protection and enforcement
  • Customs seizures
  • Counterfeiting
  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Selective distribution and other forms of distributorship

A selection of our recent assignments:

  • Assistance to combat parallel marketing, notably in a multi-jurisdictional context for manufacturers of luxury perfumes against internet sales of parallel imported goods in violation of exclusive distribution networks;
  • Support provided to a manufacturer of luxury perfumes and cosmetics when terminating an unwritten exclusive distribution relationship regarding the compensation claimed by the distributor; successful negotiation of termination of the agreement;
  • Successful defence (in preliminary injunction proceedings) of a luxury cosmetics manufacturer in respect of the continuation of the exclusive distribution contract as requested by the distributor, notwithstanding the termination notice issued by the manufacturer;
  • Assistance provided to a renowned wine producer in criminal proceedings for infringement of the trademark and other branding features.

 

Insurance and InsurTech

The economic and regulatory landscape of the insurance sector poses both threats and opportunities for market players.

Well-established insurance companies and intermediaries need to ensure that their organisation is able to swiftly adapt to the continually evolving prudential requirements, rules of conduct, product guidelines and data protection regulations. Anticipating such changes is often rightly seen as a matter of survival for market incumbents, but it can also undoubtedly become a competitive advantage.

For better or worse, new market entrants such as InsurTechs must also take these legal requirements into consideration during product development.

Our fields of expertise

Since its founding, Simont Braun has been advising both established and disruptive insurance operators. We therefore fully understand the particular issues and challenges of this sector.

Our team guides all kinds of insurance service providers through the complex European and Belgian regulatory landscapes, notably covering:

  •  Regulatory matters (licence application, “insur-MiFID”, GDPR, etc.)
  • Tax issues
  •  Contractual matters (broker and agent agreements, T&Cs, etc.)
  • M&A
  • Dispute resolution (including Supreme Courts and EU jurisdictions)
  • Our expertise is particularly recognised in the fields of life insurance and insurance innovation (InsurTech).

Some recent projects

  • Restructuring an insurance distribution network no longer complying with applicable requirements;
  • Drafting of “insur-MiFID” questionnaires for both insurance companies and brokers;
  • Advising on and drafting a co-brokering agreement;
  • Advising on the application of insurance taxes to a foreign insurance company distributing “for account” insurance policies in Belgium;
  • Assisting several InsurTechs to develop and/or adapt their products in order to comply with Belgian and EU requirements;
  • Advising and assisting InsurTechs regarding licence applications;
  • Representing a well-known insurance and credit provider before the FSMA;
  • Advising a foreign insurance company on regulations covering joint offers;
  • Advising on the conformity of Belgian legal requirements vis-à-vis EU law.

 

ICT, Media and Telecommunications

The media and telecommunications sectors are extremely fast-moving and face continuous challenges from technical developments and the constantly changing legal environment. Many aspects are affected by legal issues, ranging from day-to-day operations to strategy definition.

Simont Braun assists Media & Telecoms operators to negotiate and draft agreements, whether related to intellectual property, information technologies, data protection, commercial law, insurance law, contract law, public and administrative law or tax law. We also provide advice on data protection policies and related issues. We enjoy extensive experience in the resolution of contentious matters in these areas, whether via alternative dispute resolution methods or court proceedings.

Some of our recent assignments:

  • Negotiation of broadcasting agreements;
  • Defence in court of internet service providers against copyright collecting societies alleging copyright infringement or demanding far-reaching network control measures;
  • Assistance provided to radio and TV operators before the regulatory authorities in respect of alleged misconduct.

 

Holding Companies

Holding companies have played a significant role in the Belgian economic landscape for many years now. The flexible tax regime applicable to holding companies also attracts numerous foreign investors.

From family businesses to listed entities, holding companies represent a diversity of stakeholders which, to a large extent, share common goals and concerns: the creation of long-term value, transparency issues, efficient tax schemes, relationships with operating companies, asset preservation over generations, etc.

Together with our tax specialists, our Corporate team advises holding companies and their shareholders on all the typical issues they are likely to face.

We notably provide assistance for:

  • Selecting the right holding structure on incorporation;
  • Preparing all subsequent corporate documentation;
  • Drafting and advising on all contractual documentation relating to their relationships with the operating entities and their managers and between shareholders;
  • Governance issues;
  • Application of the various corporate, financial and tax regulations.

We also have specific expertise in providing advisory services to large family groups for the optimisation of shareholder structure and to ensure compliance with the full spectrum of regulations, notably relating to market abuse, money laundering, takeover bids, transparency and corporate governance.

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences

Dealing with health issues from a legal point of view primarily calls for an in-depth understanding of the numerous applicable EU and Belgian rules covering the manufacture, distribution, marketing and advertising of pharmaceuticals (both generics and biosimilars) and medical devices. Intellectual property and related rights (e.g. documents and marketing exclusivity) play an essential role in protecting the competitive advantages demanded by the significant investment levels. Other related matters also play a key role such as personal data protection, public tenders, research and development contracts, administrative procedures, etc.

Several teams collaborate within Simont Braun to provide assistance to a wide range of operators in this field. Our Intellectual Property team enjoys particular experience in patent and trademark litigation and in all matters relating to advertising and distribution.

We provide the whole range of advisory services: corporate, M&A, governance, real estate, lease contracts, distributorships, anti-competitive practices, labour law, databases, software protection, processing services and other matters of general economic law.

Our specific recent experience in this sector includes:

  • Various labelling and advertising issues relating to pharmaceuticals: opinions, negotiation with regulatory authorities and litigation between competitors;
  • Assistance provided to patent, SPC and trademark proprietors to defend their exclusive rights;
  • Support provided to various operators in the marketing chain against third-party claims relating to IP rights and trade practices;
  • Marketing authorisations for medicines and medical devices, documents and marketing exclusivity;
  • Transactional work and opinions covering outsourcing, marketing data, clinical and other personal data, experiments on humans;
  • Warehousing of health products and sale commissionaire schemes, various forms of supply contracts, agency and other distribution agreements (including issues related to administration of foreign marketing authorisations), e-commerce, drug supply obligations in the context of public tenders;
  • Manufacturer/importer cooperation with health professionals, various forms of cooperation among health professionals.