International firm profile: Grau Baylos & Angulo

Grau Baylos & Angulo (GBA) was founded in November 2003 when three IP partners from different Spanish firms joined to form an IP super-boutique.

GBA senior partner Jorge Grau joined from IP boutique Socoró Grau & Autó Abogados, partner Maria Baylos came from Estudio Jurídico Baylos, while managing partner Alejandro Angulo joined from the Barcelona office of Mullerat, where has was a partner and head of IP.

GBA handles the gamut of IP work, including design and copyright litigation, licensing and unfair competition, but it specialises in trademark and patent cases. Major clients on the trademark side include clothing brands Adidas, Armani, Burberry, Hugo Boss and Prada, as well as motorbike manufacturer Harley-Davidson and mobile phone company Nokia, while on the patent side clients include AstraZeneca and Philips.

In April the firm opened a two-lawyer office in Gran Canaria capital city Las Palmas. Although by no means a traditional business centre, the Canaries are honeypots for counterfeiters. In particular counterfeiters of clothing brands, and it is a problematic area for enforcement.

“Canarian courts are not very efficient compared with those in Madrid or Barcelona and police aren’t always as cooperative,” says Angulo. Although GBA is one of only a handful of Spanish firms to open in the archipelago, Angulo predicts that other firms will join them, as it is more efficient to be out there and saves the cost of flying lawyers back and forth”.

The firm also moved its Barcelona practice to larger offices in April. It has 12 lawyers in Barcelona, but the new premises have room for 20.

It is also considering plans for an office in Alicante, where the Office for the Harmonisation in the Internal Market, the first port of call for EU trademark disputes, is based – although Grau says if the launch takes place “it will not be this year”.

The firm sees its main competitors as the IP practices of Gómez-Acebo & Pombo and Clifford Chance rather than smaller IP boutiques. But Angulo adds that the most immediate threat is not from other firms, but rather from the specialisation of IP courts during the past two years. “They’ve become more American in style – half specialised,” he says. “Until 2004 we only had to deal with non-expert judges in the field, which was both easier and more difficult. Specialised courts are easier in the sense that the judges understand better what you’re doing, but are more difficult in that you have to increase the level of presentation.”

The firm plans to expand its Madrid office in the next 12 months to make it the same size as the Barcelona office. However, Grau and Angulo stress that the offices are regional bases only and that much of the firm’s work hails from outside those locations.

Looking to the future, Angulo predicts that the firm “will not differ from now” because of its ideal size. “The problem for multidisciplinary firms is that they’re too big to move quickly, while smaller IP boutiques of two to four lawyers just don’t have the critical mass,” he says.

Managing partner: Alejandro Angulo
Senior partner: Jorge Grau
Turnover: €3m (£2.07m)
Total number of fee-earners: 19
Total number of partners: Six (all equity)
Main practice area: IP
Key clients: Adidas, Armani, AstraZeneca, Barcelona Football Club, Burberry, Harley-Davidson, Hugo Boss, Nokia, Philips, Prada.

Number of offices: Three
Locations: Barcelona, Madrid, Las Palmas (Gran Canaria)