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After a 38-year career with Hewlett-Packard Co., Stephen Fox, vice president and deputy general counsel for intellectual property, has called it quits. Fox joined HP as a patent attorney in 1968, when the company employed only four patent lawyers. For the past 19 years he has overseen the legal department’s IP section, which currently includes about 100 lawyers and other patent professionals worldwide. “It’s been a long and enjoyable time,” says Fox, who left the company in mid-October. “It’s time to move on.” Fox is planning to spend time with family and friends through the holidays before deciding on his next pursuit. Ann Baskins, HP’s general counsel, described Fox as “an exceptionally good lawyer with not only a grasp of the business but the financials of the business.” She emphasized his engaging style that makes him “very comfortable to work with as a colleague or as a lawyer.” Fox had been handling all aspects of HP’s intellectual property worldwide. One of his central tasks was dealing with patent litigation, particularly complaints brought by so-called patent trolls � individuals who buy patents to enforce them without having developed the technology themselves. He had also overseen the IP aspects of several HP acquisitions. Baskins cited as an example Fox’s work in the company’s 1999 complex spin-off of Agilent Technologies. Fox says the biggest change he’s seen over the past four decades is how important IP has become and the way patents are used. Individuals and companies used to obtain patents “for the purpose of promoting progress in the useful arts,” he says. “Now patents are being bought and sold by entrepreneurial opportunists for the sole purpose of asserting them.” Fox says having the opportunity to litigate cases was one of the highlights of his career at HP. Such work was done in house until the 1980s, when it was shifted to outside counsel. “Those were fun times,” he recalls. “I think that was possible back then because [legal] exposure wasn’t that high” and cases took less time to litigate. Fox also witnessed a huge increase in patent prosecution during his tenure at HP. The company received about 50 patents during Fox’ first year on the job. Last year, HP obtained 1,775 patents and now holds some 25,000 patents worldwide. Fox received a degree in electrical engineering from Northwestern University and a law degree from George Washington University Law School. He joined HP straight out of law school. Not long ago, while he was having his deposition taken in a pending matter, the opposing attorney expressed surprise at Fox’ long tenure, particularly in light of all the other changes that have occurred in Silicon Valley. Says Fox, “I’m probably the end of an era.”

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