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After a 38-year career with Hewlett-Packard Co., Stephen Fox, vice president and deputy general counsel for intellectual property, is retiring Oct. 14. Fox joined HP as a patent attorney in 1968, when the company had just four patent lawyers. For the past 19 years he has overseen the legal department’s IP section, which counts about 100 lawyers and other patent professionals worldwide. “It’s been a long and enjoyable time,” Fox said. “It’s time to move on.” Fox, 64, said he would be spending time with family and friends and enjoying the holidays before deciding what new role to pursue. HP has not yet named a successor. General Counsel Ann Baskins declined to say whether the company planned to promote someone from within or recruit from outside. But she said Fox would be hard to replace. “He’s an exceptionally good lawyer with not only a grasp of the business but the financials of the business,” Baskins said. She added that Fox has an engaging style that makes him “very comfortable to work with as a colleague or as a lawyer.” Fox handles all aspects of the company’s intellectual property worldwide. One of his central tasks is 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 has 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 said the biggest change he’s seen over the past four decades is how important IP has become and the way patents are used. People used to obtain patents “for the purpose of promoting progress in the useful arts,” he said. “Now patents are being bought and sold by entrepreneurial opportunists for the sole purpose of asserting them.” Fox said one of the highlights of his career at HP was the chance to litigate cases. Such work was done in-house until the 1980s, when it was shifted to outside counsel. “Those were fun times,” he said. “I think that was possible back then because [legal] exposure wasn’t that high” and cases took less time to litigate. Fox has also seen a huge growth in patent prosecution. The year he joined HP it received about 50 patents; last year it was issued 1,775. The company now holds 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 upon graduating from law school. A couple of months ago he was having his deposition taken when the opposing attorney expressed surprise at his length of tenure at HP, given all the changes in Silicon Valley. “I’m probably the end of an era,” Fox said.

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