SMARTPHONE AND TABLET MAKER Apple will lose its chief patent lawyer amidst a flurry of legal battles, potentially hindering its ongoing and future lawsuits.
The man in question is Richard "Chip" Lutton Jr and he is currently in charge of Apple's extensive patent portfolio, but that is all set to change.
According to a source close to Reuters, Lutton is expected to leave the company within the next month.
However, it seems that his position is already filled by one BJ Watrous, who previously worked as deputy general legal counsel at HP. Before working at Apple, Lutton was a lawyer for Sun Microsystems.
It is not definitively known why Lutton is parting ways with the cappuccino company. Neither he or Apple have commented on the reports.
The news comes at a bad time for Apple, which is engaged in several lawsuits, primarily with smartphone makers like HTC and Samsung. It's not yet clear if the replacement by Watrous will be a good or bad thing for Apple's legal battles, but he likely will not know the cases as well as Lutton.
We cannot help but wonder if this change of post has anything to do with a recent patent lawsuit that Apple lost. It was found to be infringing two patents belonging to Personal Audio and told to pay $8m in damages. Perhaps this loss prompted Apple to reconsider who was in charge of patent disputes.
Another setback for Apple was when it was forced to pay a licence fee to Nokia last month after losing its legal battle against the Finnish phone maker over various patents. These recent losses might have forced Apple to consider making a change for its lead patent position. µ