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“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing”: that has been a common refrain among data protection specialists. A judgment by the European Court of Justice in October 2015 overturned the Safe Harbor Privacy Principles, which had allowed some US companies to comply with privacy laws protecting EU and Swiss citizens. In April 2016, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was adopted and the two-year transition period began. Lawyers were kept extremely busy by the need to advise their clients on these two developments. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said that the UK will have to comply with the GDPR if it wishes to trade with the single market on equal terms.

An increased focus on this area led to a scramble to recruit talent. James Mullock joined Bird & Bird LLP from Osborne Clarke, which itself recruited former Hogan Lovells International LLP lawyer Mark Taylor. Baker McKenzie LLP took on barrister Dyann Heward-Mills from GE Capital and Ross McKean joined DLA Piper from Olswang LLP.

UK brands are increasingly open-minded about growing their businesses abroad using the franchising model. There are also foreign companies entering the UK market, especially in the hospitality, beauty and fashion industries. Franchising teams are growing and becoming more common.

The caseload at the Patents Court continues to be dominated by patents for small molecule pharmaceutical compounds and telecoms inventions pegged to standards. The Unified Patent Court (UPC) and the European patent with unitary effect were expected to come into full force in 2017. Since the Brexit referendum, it is unclear how these plans will be affected, but membership of the court is contingent on EU membership.

Media and entertainment lawyers have reported increased interest in co-productions, driven partly by tax and other incentives in the UK, France and Germany. Other major sources of instructions included the rise of smart TVs and other connected devices, and the drive to develop content by companies that have hitherto confined themselves to hosting it.

This year the media finance sections was integrated into the media and entertainment table. Trends in media finance include increased interest from foreign (especially Chinese) institutional investors.

Media rights work has been a mainstay for sports practices in 2015 and 2016, with the Premier League record TV rights deal the standout matter in an exceptional year, which also saw firms advising on major audio-visual deals in sports including tennis, cricket and rugby union. The 2015 Rugby World Cup generated a considerable amount of work, with firms called on to act for clients in disciplinary hearings throughout the duration of the tournament. With 2016 an Olympic year, firms have been kept busy representing governing bodies in selection challenges.

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