Are Apple's Legal Battles Prompting its Patent Lawyer to Leave, Or is he Being Forced Out?
It seems that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) could be in a lot more trouble than we thought.
According to a Reuters exclusive, the company's chief patent counsel, Richard "Chip" Lutton Junior, will depart very soon.
The timing of this news – which has yet to be confirmed but comes from a Reuters source that is “familiar with the situation” – could not be worse. The beloved Mac and iPhone maker is currently battling a multitude of legal issues all over the world. While Apple may ultimately prevail in the remaining lawsuits, it has already been forced to settle one of them.
Reuters says that it is unclear why Lutton is leaving the company but notes that BJ Watrous, a former deputy general counsel with Hewlett Packard (NYSE: HPQ), “is now listed as Apple's chief IP counsel on Watrous's LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) web page.”
Without an official statement from Apple or Lutton, it is impossible to know for sure why its head patent lawyer would leave the company. One could assume that he feels overwhelmed. Up until recently, Apple didn't spend that much time in a courtroom. Today, however, Apple's legal developments come more frequently than new product announcements.
With the Nokia (NYSE: NOK) settlement costing Apple an unknown (and potentially endless now that Apple is a licensee of Nokia technology) sum of money, you have to wonder if there is more to this story. Apple clearly expected to win the Nokia battle, otherwise it would have settled months ago. While this doesn't mean that iPod creator is forcing Lutton to leave, it certainly gives us reason to speculate – and a reason to be concerned about the company's future in court.
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