My name is Börge Seeger, and I am an IP/IT partner and head of the Life Sciences Group here at NEUWERK in Hamburg, Germany.
My practice covers the full range of IP and IT law, including IP licensing and partnering, technology transfers, joint ventures and alliances, software and IT outsourcing projects, data protection and privacy, as well as complex commercial law matters. In addition, I have broad experience in assisting clients from the life sciences sector. I regularly advise biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers on product divestitures, licensing arrangements, R&D collaborations, clinical trial agreements and distribution matters, as well as on numerous other issues relating to the development, manufacture and marketing of their products.
I recently advised Polpharma Biologics, a leading European biopharmaceutical company, on a global cooperation and licensing agreement for the joint development and marketing of biosimilar Natalizumab with Novartis generics subsidiary Sandoz. I also advised Fresenius on the global outsourcing of large parts of its central IT to Capgemini (encompassing more than 1,000 sites around the globe) and ITG, a German-based specialised radiopharmaceutical company, on a long-term global supply and licence agreement with Novartis subsidiary and French cancer specialist AAA. Clients regularly recommend me as “incredibly responsive” – to many of them, I am their ‘go-to guy’ for both IP and IT matters.
I am a German-qualified lawyer and certified licensing professional. I co-author and edit Newsdienst Compliance, one of Germany’s leading law journals for corporate and compliance managers, where I write on IP, licensing, IT and data protection matters. I also contributed a chapter on healthcare privacy for the second edition of the German Handbook of Pharmaceutical Contracts. I am a lecturer at the Center for Transnational IP, Media and Technology Law and Policy at Bucerius Law School (Hamburg, Germany), and a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, United States.
A few words about NEUWERK: NEUWERK is a boutique law firm that was founded in 2016 by a group of former Freshfields lawyers. As of today, our headcount amounts to 33 attorneys, each of them specialised in one of the following legal fields: corporate/M&A, IP/IT, employment law, real estate law, (criminal) compliance and disputes and arbitration. We advise our clients with small, well-rehearsed teams of experts who work hand in hand, seamlessly and efficiently. Our particular setup means that we can provide clients with fast, continuous advice across disciplines without ever losing momentum. We combine the speed and openness of a boutique with the full service and quality of a large law firm. Clients regularly praise us for our pragmatic, hands-on approach – and tell us we are fun to work with!
To begin with, what was it that sparked your interest in law?
At the age of 16/17, I spent a year abroad in the United States (I went to high school in LA). It was during this time that I first came into contact with ‘Moot Court’, a simulated court proceeding for high school students. I found that incredibly exciting – and by the end of the year I knew I wanted to study and practice law.
Why did you choose IP and IT law as your primary areas of specialisation?
I have always had a knack for IT. While I was in law school in the mid-90s, I coded some of the first websites for German courts in my spare time and was involved in some IT projects in the German healthcare sector. Later in my job I realised that good IT advice requires a deep understanding of IP issues. Today at NEUWERK, I have the great privilege to work exactly at the intersection of these topics: We regularly advise pharmaceutical and biotech companies on e-health and (data) licensing issues. For me, this is the best combination of both worlds!
How have you seen these fields change over the course of your career?
I think IP and IT law remain some of the most dynamic areas of law around. In the 15 years that I have been practicing law, these fields have changed fundamentally. To give some examples, we have seen massive new legislation to protect privacy (e.g. GDPR and CCPA), increased enforcement of computer crime and cybercrime laws, new protections for online copyright infringement, the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), the need for increased data security and regulation and the development of cloud computing and AI.
In your view, what are the most interesting current trends emerging from the IP and IT sectors?
One of the most interesting current trends we are witnessing is the mass emergence of AI, with tools like ChatGPT being accessible to everyone – and we are debating whether we will now see the ‘death of copyright’ (I for one think so).
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
In my role as a partner here at NEUWERK, I am often asked to be actively involved in two sectors that are particularly close to my heart, namely Life Sciences and IT. With our focus on licensing and commercial work, we are often invited by our clients to be involved in deals and collaborations in the development of new and innovative products. Typically these are very exciting developments in which not only the medical world but also the general public has a great interest. I really enjoy this work – I find it intellectually challenging and incredibly exciting!
Can you tell us anything about significant past deals you have worked on?
A few years ago, I advised BioNTech, a leading German biotech company specialising in immunotherapies (particularly mRNA therapies), on a series of licensing collaborations to commercialise novel mRNA-based cancer immunotherapies. These collaborations have the potential to revolutionise cancer treatment by providing personalised cancer vaccines for many tumours.
Then last year, the University Clinic of Cologne asked me to advise them on an out-licensing of a novel compound to BioNTech (i.e. to effectively sit on the other side of the negotiating table). That was a lot of fun – it gave me a chance to meet my old contacts at BioNTech again and, at the same time, do my part in aligning the different interests of the contracting parties.
Is there a personal philosophy that you follow which drives you to achieve the best possible results for your clients?
I think it is important to stay curious. Curiosity is a vital ingredient for becoming a good inventor or scientist, but I think it is also key to our work as lawyers. Deal counsel have the opportunity to witness such incredibly exciting and innovative developments. We bring our expertise to the table – and yet we are only a small component in the whole. I like to completely immerse myself and learn as much as I can about the client and the technology before I really start advising.
What does it mean to to you to be a recipient of a Finance Monthly Deal Maker Award for your involvement in the deal: University Clinic of Cologne agrees collaboration with BioNTech
I am extremely pleased to receive this award. Of course, my team and I are grateful for the accolade. But I also see the award as recognition for a subject that (unfortunately) still leads a bit of a shadowy existence: licensing and collaborations in life sciences. It would be great if this award can contribute a little bit to making this subject better known.
Is there any advice that you would give to prospective IP and IT lawyers looking to emulate your success?
I would advise prospective IP and IT colleagues to look at our subject holistically. Do not focus too early on only one (small) specialist subject within the broad field of IP/IT, but recognise the many similarities and repetitions, regardless of whether you are working in patent law, (software) copyright or trade secret protection. For all those who work outside the subject of IP/IT, our field is a special matter anyway.
What are your current plans for 2023/24?
Earlier this year we expanded my team – we are now five lawyers focused on advising on life sciences transactions and commercial work. In 2023/24, we will continue to pursue this focus; we will continue to grow our client base (including in academia) and we may soon have the opportunity to be involved in some truly pioneering collaborations again.