Richard Lloyd

IAM can exclusively reveal that Google IP head Allen Lo is joining Facebook in a major move in Silicon Valley IP circles. Lo will effectively replace Sam O’Rourke who left the social media giant earlier this year after ten years as the company’s IP head.

Lo joined Google in early 2012 from Juniper Networks taking over from Michelle Lee who went onto become head of the USPTO. Under his leadership the search giant’s patent group has gone through a period of significant change. He joined shortly after the auction of the Nortel patent assets which unfolded into a bitterly fought contest between Google and the Rockstar consortium comprising Apple, Ericsson, Blackberry, Microsoft, Sony and EMC. Having missed out on those assets Google acquired Motorola Mobility in August 2011 for $12.5 billion in a deal which handed the company more than 14,000 patents worldwide. Those assets were seen as crucial in helping Google defend the Android universe in the smartphone litigation wars. Motorola was then sold to Lenovo in early 2014 although Google retained the patent portfolio.

During his time at the company Lo headed an IP group that pioneered a number of different initiatives designed to enhance patent litigation defences and address what Google saw as some of the problems in the patent market. Among those were the Patent Purchase Promotion, a platform designed to bring more efficiency and transparency into the patent buying process which has since been copied by AST and Uber. More recently Google launched PAX, a licensing programme designed to reduce patent risk for device makers shipping products with Android.    

Although the specifics on Lo’s new role at Facebook are not yet clear, IAM understands that the position will be broader than his role at Google. In patent terms the social media giant is a far less significant or visible player although that has been changing in recent years. Last year the company received 442 US patents according to the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) — enough to put it in 90th position on the IPO’s top 300 (it first made the list in 2013). As this blog has also recently reported, Facebook has become a far more regular filer of inter partes reviews (IPRs) as it looks to defend itself from infringement lawsuits.

It is not clear yet who might replace Lo although as one Valley observer pointed out, Google and its parent company Alphabet enjoy a very deep bench of IP talent including Amar Mehta who moved last year to become deputy general counsel of the company’s self-driving company Waymo and Chip Lutton, former chief patent counsel at Apple, who was general counsel of Nest when Google acquired it in 2014. Whoever takes over will have some very big shoes to fill.