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Friday, July 15, 2011, 06:15 pm PT (09:15 pm ET)

Apple shopping for lawyers as patent suits mount

On the heels of reports that the company's chief patent counsel is leaving, new job postings reveal that Apple is shopping for lawyers to reinforce its litigation team as the company continues to vigorously defend its intellectual property.

Discovered by AppleInsider, two separate postings for a Sr. Patent Litigation Counsel and Legal Counsel, Litigation appeared on Apple's job board on Friday.

The senior position requires 7-12 years of patent litigation experience and would be involved in "managing and advising the company on significant, complex patent litigation matters." Beyond simply monitoring outside counsel, the in-house attorney would be "engaged in formulating and driving strategy as well as providing counsel to clients at all levels of management on patent litigation matters."

The second litigator role would require the candidate to "supervise and direct outside counsel, manage legal budgets and provide counsel to clients at all levels of management on actual and potential litigation matters, including proposing strategic and creative approaches to resolving disputes."

3-5 years of litigation experience are required for the position, with preferred experience in one or more of the following areas: "class action, trademark, copyright, antitrust, product liability and/or general commercial."

In the posts, Apple describes its legal team as being "supportive and fun" and "friendly and outgoing" as it works "closely together to protect Apple's interests." Both positions appear to be based out of the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

The job openings come just days after Reuters reported that Apple lead patent counsel Richard "Chip" Lutton is leaving the company. B.J. Watrous, who formerly served as deputy general counsel at Hewlett Packard, will take over as Apple's new Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, according to his LinkedIn profile. According to the report, Apple has been on a "hiring spree" for its intellectual property team, reportedly bringing on litigation specialist Noreen Krall from Sun Microsystems.

Apple's legal team recruitment efforts come as the company has found itself engaged in a number of high-profile patent lawsuits with competitors. Samsung and Apple are currently locked in a tense battle over the Korean electronics giant's alleged infringement of the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad.

Earlier this week, Samsung asked a court to disqualify some of Apple's outside counsel because of an alleged conflict of interest. At least five of the lawyers from one law firm representing Apple previously represented Samsung while with another firm.

Recent indications suggest that the dispute between the companies may have affected their supplier relationship. Apple is reportedly looking to move away from Samsung to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company for orders of its next-generation A6 processors. Early Friday, sources suggested that TSMC has already begun trial manufacturing of the chips and could receive a formal order from Apple, depending on the "yield rate."

Apple on Friday won a partial victory in its ongoing dispute with Taiwanese handset maker HTC. A judge for the U.S. International Trade Commission issued an initial ruling that found HTC had violated two of Apple's patents. The decision will be reviewed by the full commission, which has the power to block imports of infringing products.

The iPhone maker first sued HTC last March, specifically highlighting the company's Google Android-based devices. HTC has countered with its own suit, alleging Apple infringed on five of its patents.

Nokia and Apple resolved last month a multi-year legal disagreement, with the iPhone maker agreeing to pay a lump-sum plus ongoing royalties to the Finnish handset maker. The outcome was viewed by industry watcher Florian Mueller as a "sweet defeat" for Apple, as Android smartphone makers may be required to pay more per unit because they lack the bargaining chips that Apple holds.

Apple is also bogged down in litigation against patent licensing companies seeking to extract royalties from the company. Last week, Apple was ordered to pay $8 million in damages to a non-practicing entity over violations to patents related to iPod playlists. The company is also engaged in defending iOS developers against claims from non-practicing entity Lodsys that allege infringement on an in-app purchasing patent.

Apple has said that, regardless of merit, defending itself against patent infringement cases consumes "significant time and expense" for the company, which has become the world's most-sued tech company in recent years.