Last year when we introduced this regular feature, the selected deals all showed how central IP lawyers had become to large acquisitions. The increased value attributed to brands – particularly western brands – meant that trade mark due diligence was a crucial step in a deal, not just an afterthought. That perceived value also led to IP being used as collateral in transactions and pension arrangements. If there is a difference this year, it is that the IP isn't just central to the deals – it is the deals.
For example, the intensity and breadth of the smartphone wars has made a large patent portfolio a business necessity. The trend started last year with Nortel Networks' auction of its patents, but it has grown and evolved since, with the purchase/licence of AOL patents by Microsoft, and subsequent sale/licence to Facebook, demonstrating the legal innovation at work on these deals.
The sale by Sanyo of its white goods business to Haier in China was one of the most important deals in Asia for years. But it was Sanyo's trade secrets – the expertise in making the right tubes and pumps – that Haier wanted. That knowledge will allow it to instantly become a leading player in the industry, saving years of needless trial and error. Freshfields' work on the Olympic Games in London, equally, is included because of how much the IP strategy drove the look and feel of the Games.
The five transactions were picked by the Managing IP editorial team in London, Hong Kong and New York, and all took place between July 2011 and June 2012. The deals are merely our selection from a large number submitted by law firms around the world. We do not claim that they are the best on any objective criteria, merely the most interesting we considered. We would welcome any suggestions of other deals - please comment using the button at the top of this story or engage in the conversation on Twitter: #MIPDeals.