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EMC Legal: On the front lines of patent reform

Krish Gupta

Krish Gupta

Krish Gupta shares insights on what's behind the team's success

June 29, 2012 — EMC’s Intellectual Property (IP) Legal team achieved a major victory on May 4, 2012, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruled in EMC's favor and granted EMC’s petition for writ of mandamus that EMC and 17 other companies were improperly joined as defendants in a patent case. Oasis Research, an Intellectual Ventures related company, had sued EMC and the others for allegedly infringing four patents.

After the Federal District Court in Texas denied EMC’s motion to sever EMC from the multiparty case and transfer it to a more appropriate venue, EMC filed a petition with the CAFC. The CAFC ruled that EMC was correct in testing the district court’s decision and also held that parties in a patent case should not be joined together when there is a lack of substantial evidence that they have acted in concert.

This achievement marks a hard-fought win for EMC’s IP lawyers, who have taken a leadership role in going on the offensive against “patent trolls,” entities that buy patents for the sole purpose of enforcing them in court. And as a result of this landmark ruling, patent litigants can now cite EMC when protesting multidefendant cases initiated by patent trolls in troll-friendly forums.

This is yet another accolade for EMC’s IP team. Last November, EMC’s patent portfolio achieved a top 10 ranking for its patent portfolio and a very high industry impact score on The Patent Board’s Patent Scorecard,* a prestigious industry benchmark.

Krish Gupta, SVP and Deputy General Counsel, talks about the team and how it contributes to EMC’s success.

My group is responsible for all intellectual property law matters, including patents and trademarks, open source and standards support, IP litigation, strategic OEM, software, and technology partnership agreements, and IP support for EMC’s M&A activities. We establish and implement IP protection and enforcement strategies and policies for the company and participate extensively in organizations that influence IP law and policy. We also counsel on export and trade compliance matters.

How do you work with other groups in the company, such as Engineering?

An IP lawyer is assigned to each Business Unit, such as BRS, IIG, Isilon, Greenplum, and RSA, as well as core EMC, including Symmetrix and USD. They essentially provide soup-to-nuts technology- or engineering-related legal support. My team is presented with interesting and challenging issues every day and plays a critical role in protecting the company's ever-expanding technology portfolio and brands, negotiating strategic technology deals, and advising the business on a wide range of IP issues such as patents, trademarks, open source, and standards.

Why is it advantageous for EMC to keep its IP work in-house?

We believe that our lawyers have the best knowledge of the company’s business and technology and thus they are in the best position to offer timely, effective, and high-quality counsel to the business in a way that helps EMC move its business forward. By doing a lot of our work in-house, we have built one of the strongest and most valuable patent portfolios in the computer industry, have had unparalleled success in protecting our business both as a plaintiff and defendant in patent and other IP litigation (EMC has collected over $500 million in license fees from patent enforcement actions), and have negotiated many strategic technology partnerships to help grow the business.

Is our philosophy unique in the industry?

It’s somewhat unique in terms of how much we do in-house. Our reliance on outside counsel is limited to overflow help with patent prosecution and some IP litigation assistance. All of our transaction and licensing work is done internally, as well as a significant portion of our patent and trademark work.

What is a major challenge you face?

The legal and technology landscapes are changing fast for in-house IP and technology attorneys. Keeping up on the law and the new areas of technology while delivering timely, effective, and high-quality legal advice with limited resources is the biggest challenge facing in-house IP counsel. Patent troll litigation also has skyrocketed in the past few years. Defending these actions and fighting the trolls is a 24x7 job.

Why is it important for EMC to have a robust patent portfolio?

Our patent portfolio gives us design freedom. We are able to use our substantial patent portfolio to defend our business and our products in the event we are sued by a competitor for patent infringement. We also spend a lot of money on R&D, investments, and acquisitions. Patents provide us a way to protect that investment by getting legal rights to the inventions embodied in the companies we buy, products we develop, and technology that we acquire. Finally, our very effective and valuable patent portfolio differentiates EMC as a highly innovative company in the industry.

EMC's IP Legal team. Back row, left to right: Linda Valanzola, Jason Reyes, Krish Gupta, Bill Clark, Joseph D'Angelo, Jerry Kazanjian, and Deepika Bhayana. Seated, left to right: John T. Hurley, Kevin Perkins, Michelle Zenkus, Mary-Jane Shorts, Julie Parker, and Mary Hamaker. Not Pictured: Brian Hamilton, Kristen Caizzi, Carrie Moser, Julie Mazzarella, Sandy Kulaga, Ron Zollman, Theodore Chen, Victor Huang, Thomas McMasters, and Deanna Santos. (Photo credit: Katie Bowen)

*PatentBoard.com, The Wall Street Journal Market Data Group, November 7, 2011.

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Related Materials

thomsonreuters.com: "Federal Circuit smacks trolls in holdover multidefendant suits" (May 7, 2012)

Corporate Counsel: "The D.I.Y. approach to intellectual property and tech licensing" (November 1, 2011)

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