in the United States around eligibility for computer-imple-
mented inventions, or patenting of software, Ringes says.
“That’s an area where we’ve actually been focused on and
seeing if we can do something about altering the course of the
law through legislation, primarily, to better protect software
and allow software to be patented.”
The legal team also adds its voice to certain lawsuits,
Ringes says. This year, for example, IBM submitted an amicus
brief in the Impression Products v. Lexmark International U.S.
Supreme Court case on patent exhaustion.
“As the leader in U.S. patents, we like to believe that our
voice on these issues is valued and heard by the courts and the
legislature,” Ringes says.
Not surprisingly, there is also an ongoing focus on
infringement and ensuring that “there’s a good balance in the
patent system for both strong patent protection and to avoid
abusive behavior, particularly abusive litigation practices by
nonpracticing entities,” Ringes explains.
The IP team at “Big Blue,” as IBM is known, has also been
looking inwardly as of late to enhance IP operations, Ringes
says, which in 2016, led to efforts to implement a new patent
and trademark management system that runs in IBM’s Cloud.
For a company that prides itself on constantly pushing
the envelope with respect to technological innovations, it’s
no exaggeration to say that intellectual property is crucial to
the hundred-year-old giant’s success.
“Intellectual property is core to everything we do here
at IBM,” Ringes says. “Being a company in the technology
industry, in essence almost everything we sell—our products,
both software and hardware, and our services—is embedded
with intellectual property … so it’s fairly easy for us to identify
how important that intellectual property is to our business.”
THE HEART OF IT ALL
But it’s not all about IP in the legal department. The IP team
is a part of roughly 600 lawyers in IBM’s global legal department. And that leadership in the patent space is just one of the
many accomplishments the legal department has a hand in.
There are those successes that can be easily measured. In
2015-2016, the company closed 28 acquisitions with a value
of nearly $9 billion. And last year, IBM’s pro bono program
received the Legal Aid Society’s Innovative Corporate Pro
Bono Projects & Partnerships award.
Then there are those distinctions within the legal department that are of the more immeasurable variety. With an eye
toward the future of the legal department, for instance, there
is a lot of focus on growing in-house lawyers, says Michelle
Browdy, senior vice president of legal and regulatory affairs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID HANDSCHUH/ALM
From left: Michael Cronin, Daniela Combe, Christina Montgomery,
Michelle Browdy, Ed Sebold, Paloma Valor, Bob Putnam and Jon Bancone