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Title: Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Location: Austin Age: 40 Asset Management Few legal departments can take credit for keeping the lights on at headquarters, but the lawyers at Cirrus Logic Inc. can. For a time during the semiconductor downturn, general counsel Gregory Scott Thomas says his team was one of the company’s main revenue producers. “The legal department was pretty much solely responsible for increasing the cash, at a time when we were losing money at the company,” he says. In 2003, the legal department brought in $54 million in settlements with companies for alleged patent infringement and breach of contract. Later that year, Thomas, who had been associate general counsel in charge of intellectual property, took over the legal department and continued his efforts to protect Cirrus’ patent portfolio. “Our patent asset is one of our biggest assets,” Thomas says. William R. Volk, a partner in Vinson & Elkins who works frequently with Thomas, calls him a “superb lawyer with strong analytical skills and excellent judgment. . . . He is unflappable and focuses on the matter at hand without distraction.” With four years of engineering experience at Texas Instruments Inc. and AT&T Bell Laboratories, and four more of IP litigation, Thomas was perfectly positioned to help Cirrus Logic, a cutting-edge electronics company, organize and mine its portfolio when he joined in 2001. First he ordered an audit and categorization of patents, roughly 800 at the time, with between 200 and 300 pending applications. Then, his team created a patent database, fully and quickly searchable by Cirrus’ engineers and lawyers. Thomas then set out to convince his superiors of the cash-generating potential of licensing or selling patents. The marching orders were largely to defend the patents. “It was an education process with the board and with the CEO and the general counsel at the time, in terms of understanding what assets we had in the patent portfolio, and what the value of those assets were,” Thomas says. Cirrus was able to turn Thomas’ ideas into $18 million by early 2004, with the sale of patent assets associated with a magnetic-storage business the company had exited in 2002. Cirrus now has refocused its efforts on its core strengths, such as high-tech semiconductor technology. In June, the company closed a deal with Magnum Semiconductor Inc. to sell off assets related to its DVD product line. Thomas says the bottom line is healthier these days. He plans to continue examining opportunities for the patent portfolio, and anticipates the need to grow his department. When he was hired, there were nine or 10 lawyers. Through the thin years, that was whittled down to three. But that was enough to make a difference, he says. “I’m very proud of our legal team and outside legal counsel. We have helped during a period of time that was very difficult for the company,” Thomas says.

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