When many in the US think of Amsterdam, they think of windmills, tulips—and perhaps the city’s legendarily laisse-faire attitude about certain cigarettes.

But Americans may not know that the Dutch city is one of the world’s most vibrant centers for entrepreneurship and start-up businesses. As a Womble Carlyle IP and Patent attorney, Jack Hicks counsels a number of emerging businesses and as an adjunct professor at the Elon University School of Law, he teaches his students to serve the needs of fast-growing companies.

So Hicks and fellow faculty member Antonette Barilla recently led an Elon Law delegation to Amsterdam and Florence, Italy. In Amsterdam, Hicks and the Elon Law team visited Delft University’s Business Accelerator and met with officials from the Dutch Patent Office and Zebra Legal, an Amsterdam law firm serving the start-up community. They also spent a day at Rockstart, the highly successful business accelerator who leads all of Europe with successful business launches.

Students also had the chance to participate in a pitch event. Afterwards, the Elon students had the chance to directly meet and counsel six international start-up companies on their IP needs and help them draft a legal plan (under Hicks’ supervision).

“Start-up businesses have different legal and business needs compared to mature companies,” Hicks said. “For example, they may need help with formation and ownership issues. They typically have less money for legal expenses, so they need smart, bespoke lawyering. Their outside counsel has to help them prioritize their legal needs.”

After leaving Amsterdam, the group traveled to Florence, where they learned about IP issues in the food industry.

These include geographical indications, or GIs—a form of trademarks used on food products to indicate a specific country or regional origin. Some examples are champagne (Champagne province, France), parmesan cheese (specific provinces in Italy) and port wine (Douro Valley, Portugal).

According to European Union IP laws, these food names are protected terms. Students traveled to a dairy farm in Parma, Italy to see the parmesan cheese-making process. Before leaving, they also had a conversation with U.S. trade officials and a Wisconsin dairy farmer, who makes a similar type of cheese. The GI issue can complicate matters for U.S. businesses in the import/export market, and the Elon students studied the issue from the perspective of parties on both sides of the Atlantic.

Jack Hicks has more than 25 years of experience global businesses through all stages of the intellectual property process. He has considerable experience helping companies prepare and prosecute patents in international venues, particularly in Europe and in Asia. In 2013-15, he served as Vice-Chair of the U.S. Bar-EPO Liaison Council, an organization made up of U.S. bar association-appointed members and holds meetings to discuss matters of importance to U.S. practitioners who have clients who pursue patent protection.