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The Brexit vote has created uncertainty amongst the IP community as it has in many other sectors. The impact remains the subject of much debate, particularly relating to the Unified Patent Court (UPC). It is still not known what the UK’s departure from Europe will mean in practice, but it is clear that the move will have long-term implications for UK businesses, including their IP and legal rights.

The term ‘fintech’ has entered mainstream parlance only recently; however, firms have long been working at the intersection between financial services and technology. As a result, all the major areas of fintech – digital payments and money transfers, peer-to-peer lending, ‘insurtech’, robo-advice, crowdfunding, digital currencies, distributed ledger technology and blockchain, and ‘regtech’ (software solutions for the regulatory difficulties faced by financial institutions) – are comprehensively covered by the London legal market. The best practices have deep, broad offerings: assisting major financial institutions with regulatory and commercial technology work, advising long-established, high-profile technology companies on their financial services or cooperation with financial service providers, and comprehensively handling cutting-edge fintech start-ups’ legal requirements are all hallmarks of premier practices. Fintech companies are desirable targets for investors, and given their increased presence in the market are kept busy on the commercial side; in terms of regulatory work, the law is still catching up with the sector’s rapid pace of development, which may explain why there has been little fintech litigation so far. Whether or not Brexit will harm London’s status as a global fintech hub remains to be seen. But Payment Services Directive II is due to be enforced in the UK from 2018, regardless of Brexit, and there has been plenty of regulatory work for firms advising global financial players on the technological implications of this.

The life sciences sector faces many challenges across a vast range of areas. The line between life sciences and technology sectors are becoming increasingly blurred with the ever expanding area of digital health facing increased scrutiny from regulators with growing competition in the industry to provide solutions for digital customer and consumer engagement. This rapid expansion also brings a series of commercial and legal challenges, particularly in the data protection and cyber security space. These new routes of engagement with patients and healthcare providers also raise several regulatory concerns. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into force in May 2018 has also kept firms very busy in assisting with the analyses of existing regimes together with implementing certain requirements under the GDPR to ensure compliance when the regulation comes into force. On the IP side, a significant proportion of recent patent cases in the UK involved a claim to revoke an SPC reflecting the fact that the protection conferred under the SPC regulation is vital and valuable to pharmaceutical companies.

The new Code for Sports Governance, which was introduced in October 2016 and became mandatory six months later, has been keeping sports lawyers busy on the regulatory side. The main changes it heralded were tighter safeguarding regulations, in the context of the high-profile revelations of systemic abuse taking place particularly in football; and greater structural transparency for the sake of sporting integrity. On the corporate and commercial side, international media rights work continues apace, and foreign money (Middle Eastern and Chinese in particular) is still hungry for UK football clubs. The burgeoning e-sports sector and the increasing role of data in sport have seen more technology and IP lawyers getting involved in the sector. Anti-doping and corruption across a variety of sports have yielded much work for litigators and arbitrators.

The media industry has been rapidly changing and developing over the last five years, driven by technological and regulatory change. The way in which we consume news and entertainment has changed dramatically, creating both challenges and opportunities for traditional broadcasters and entertainment companies. Social Media is revolutionising the way that businesses operate; employers are more conscious of the internal and external influences and for the need to manage employees’ use of social media.

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