The Work

January 11, 2012 8:11 PM

Apple Handles Hardware Maker Acquisition In-House

Posted by Brian Baxter

Three months after the death of cofounder Steve Jobs, Apple has confirmed the purchase of Israeli flash memory storage company Anobit Technologies, one of the largest acquisitions in the Cupertino, California–based company's history.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but various reports estimated its value as being somewhere between $400 million and $500 million, with Bloomberg, citing anonymous individuals familiar with the transaction, pegging the purchase price at $390 million.

While Apple declined to provide details about the transaction, a source familiar with the deal's inner workings tells The Am Law Daily that the electronic device and computer software maker handled the matter entirely in-house. Apple's general counsel is D. Bruce Sewell, a former legal chief at Intel who took over the company's top in-house legal job in September 2009 following the retirement of predecessor Daniel Cooperman.

Cooperman, now of counsel with Bingham McCutchen, spoke with sibling publication Corporate Counsel last year about his experiences working with Jobs, whose own distaste for Flash, a multimedia platform made by San Jose–based Adobe Systems, is memorialized in a letter on Apple's Web site.

But the flash memory produced by Anobit is different. The Herzliya-based company’s technology has for years been a key component in all of Apple's products, according to technology site TechCrunch. Indeed, Bloomberg reports that Apple is the world's largest buyer of NAND flash memory, which helps increase the storage capacity of iPhones, iPads, and MacBook Air laptop computers.

Unlike its Silicon Valley rivals, Apple does not usually make blockbuster billion-dollar acquisitions that merit widespread public disclosure. The company's deals are usually of smaller technology companies, whose technology it incorporates into its product lines. (According to the TechCrunch article, Apple is also eager to snap up engineering talent, which may have been a movitating factor in the Anobit acquisition.)

In 2010, Apple bought Siri, whose voice-control software enables the latest iPhone 4S to function as a virtual personal assistant that, among other things, helps lawyers manage their everyday tasks. Other deals announced by Apple in recent years include its acquisitions of semiconductor maker PA Semi, streaming music service La La Media, mobile ad company Quattro Wireless, and mapping companies Poly9 and C3 Technologies.

Though it did not turn to them in this instance, Apple, which released its 2012 proxy statement this week, has traditionally relied on a host of Am Law 200 firms for its legal needs.

When Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in October, Larry Sonsini, chairman and name partner at Silicon Valley stalwart Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosatirecounted his long history of advising Apple on various transactional and corporate initiatives.

Other firms that handle outside legal work for Apple include Fenwick & West, Kirkland & EllisMorrison & Foerster, Munger, Tolles & Olson, O’Melveny & Myers, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Last month Kirkland scored a big win for Apple before the International Trade Commission in a patent battle with smartphone rival HTC, according to sibling publication The Recorder.

Outside legal advisers for Anobit, which was founded in 2007, were not available by the time of this story.

An examination of Patent and Trademark Office records shows that Fish & Richardson, Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, and Israeli firm D. Kligler IP Services have done patent work in the country for Anobit. Daniel Kligler, a founding partner at the Tel Aviv–based firm bearing his name, confirmed to The Am Law Daily his role as patent counsel to Anobit, but declined to comment on the identity of any other legal advisers for the company.

News of Apple's interest in Anobit broke in December when Israeli publication Calcalist reported that the two sides were nearing a deal. As noted by Bloomberg, the office of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was eager to announce that a transaction was imminent, welcoming Apple to the country via a post on Twitter late last month.

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