Exclusive - Apple patent lawyer to leave - source

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:42am BST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc's chief patent counsel will soon leave the company, at a time when the company is fighting numerous legal battles around the world, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Apple is engaged in an expanding web of litigation concerning smartphone patents, mostly with phonemakers using Google's Android software, and it was unclear why Richard "Chip" Lutton Junior, who manages the iPhone maker's patent portfolio, is leaving the company.

However, BJ Watrous, a former deputy general counsel with Hewlett Packard, is now listed as Apple's chief IP counsel on Watrous's LinkedIn web page.

Legal battles have become increasingly common in the cellphone industry since Apple and Google grabbed a big chunk of the lucrative and still fast growing smartphone market.

Last month Apple joined with Microsoft Corp, Blackberry maker Research In Motion Ltd and three other tech companies to outbid Google in a $4.5 billion (2.8 billion pounds) deal to acquire a huge portfolio of technology patents from failed telecoms group Nortel Networks.

On Friday Apple also filed a second patent complaint against Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC before a U.S. trade panel.

"I believe Apple's leadership wants to see results now, especially in connection with Google's Android mobile operating system," said Germany-based intellectual property analyst and blogger Florian Mueller.

"The second complaint against HTC shows that Apple feels it did not handle its patent litigation perfectly in the past."

Last month Apple lost a major legal battle against Nokia, agreeing to pay royalties and an undisclosed lump sum to the struggling Finnish cellphone maker.

But Apple and Samsung Electronics are also battling over patents in courts around the world, despite the fact that Samsung is one of Apple's key suppliers.

Earlier this month Apple asked a U.S. judge to issue a preliminary injunction against some of Samsung's Galaxy smartphone products.

Lutton did not respond to requests for comment, and an Apple representative declined to comment.

Lutton's voicemail was still set up at Apple on Monday, but he will be leaving Apple in the near future, perhaps in the next month, said the source familiar with the situation.

Watrous was deputy general counsel at Hewlett-Packard in charge of IP licensing. An HP spokesman declined to comment.

(Editing by Edwin Chan, Greg Mahlich)

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