Apple's chief patent lawyer leaving imminently tip sources

Apple's chief patent counsel will imminently leave the company, according to sources familiar with the situation, despite the current heavy workload of patent-related litigation.  Richard "Chip" Lutton Junior could depart Apple as soon as in the next month, Reuters' tipster claims, though neither he nor Apple itself have commented on the speculation.

Meanwhile, ex-HP deputy counsel BJ Watrous now lists his role as Vice President & Chief IP Counsel at Apple Inc. on his LinkedIn profile, suggesting he will replace Lutton. Watrous has been in the role since June 2011.

Apple's legal department has arguably been one of its busiest in recent months, with the company fielding patent infringement suits and countersuits with a number of high-profile rivals. Most notable are the convoluted spats between the company and Samsung, which saw Apple accuse its rival – and significant hardware supplier – of being an arch "copyist" of the design of iOS, the iPhone and iPad, as well as with HTC, against whom a new motion was filed within the last few days.

In response, HTC has accused the Cupertino company of "[resorting] to competition in the courts rather than the market place." Meanwhile, Samsung has demanded that at least one of Apple's outside legal teams be dismissed, over claims that lawyers from the firm hold privileged information on the Korean firm gathered while in their recent employ.

Not all of Apple's court appearances have been successful, either. The company was found to have infringed on two patents held by graphics firm S3, a company which HTC subsequently announced it would buy for strategic IP reasons.