Gustav Brismark has been appointed as Ericsson’s new chief intellectual property officer. He takes over from Kasim Alfalahi, whose departure to run a new IoT licensing platforn was revealed earlier this year, and will formally assume his new position on 1st July. The news was made public in a wider announcement about organisational and structural changes at the Swedish company.
Brismark has been a long-time, high-profile member of the Ericsson IP team, having joined the company straight from university in 1986. Since 2006 he has held the position of vice president of patent strategies and portfolio management. In that role he has helped to build one of the most formidable mobile communication patent holdings in the world. Like Alfalahi, Brismark is not a lawyer by training – instead, his background is in physics and engineering.
Alfalahi leaves behind big shoes for Brismark to fill. During his 11 years as Ericsson’s CIPO, the company’s annual patent licensing income grew from $290 million to $1.6 billion. Alfalahi was known as a consummate deal-maker. He was, for example, the driving force behind the creation of the Rockstar consortium that paid $4.5 billion to win the Nortel patent auction back in 2011 (though it was Apple, not Ericsson, that fronted most of the cash); while the company’s 2013 privateering agreement with Unwired Planet was probably the most transparent such deal that has ever been done. Proof of Alfalahi’s importance to Ericsson was the decision in 2012 for him to report direct to CEO Hans Vestberg.
It is not known whether Brismark will retain that direct line into the CEO’s office, but there is no doubt that he has a huge role to play at the company. In recently announced quarterly figures, the one ray of sunshine in what was a generally disappointing set of results was the rise in IP-related revenues. Brismark will be expected to ensure this income keeps on growing steadily, while protecting Ericsson's interests with regard to issues such as FRAND and standards, subjects of which he has a great deal of hands-on knowledge. In choosing Brismark, Ericsson has put its confidence in a company man who knows its patent portfolio inside out. Now he has to deliver.