Reuters reported this morning that Apple’s chief patent attorney Richard “Chip” Lutton Junior is leaving the company “at a time when the iPhone maker is fighting numerous legal battles around the world, according to a source familiar with the situation”. The news gathering organization did a little digging on LinkedIn and found out that BJ Watrous is now listed as Vice President & Chief IP Counsel at Apple Inc. Watrous was hired from computer maker Hewlett-Packard where he led intellectual property, licensing and litigation efforts.

In addition 9to5Mac discovered a LinkedIn profile that belongs to Jason Skinder, now listed as Apple’s senior patent counsel and coming from law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP where he was a senior associate. The news about this departure arrived just as we learned that courts in US and Canada approved the sale of 6,000 patents and applications for $4.5 billion to an Apple-led group that includes industry heavy-weights such as Microsoft, Research In Motion, Ericsson, EMC and Sony (but not Google). Those willing to dive deeper are advised to check out Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s piece from this morning entitled “Much Ado About Patent Lawyers” over at the Fortune blogs.

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