The Copyright Stuff

Horacio Gutiérrez sits down with HE to catch up on how Microsoft is growing its intellectual property and his role in protecting it.

Horacio Gutiérrez, vice president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft
Horacio Gutiérrez, VP and Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft

What led you to a career in intellectual property (IP) law?

I was always drawn to technology. One summer in secondary school, instead of going on vacation or taking a summer job, I took a software-programming course. When I started as an attorney in Venezuela, I was an industrial property agent representing mostly international companies in trademark and copyright-related issues. I was involved in one of the earliest copyright registrations for software that ever took place in Venezuela. I remember spending a good deal of time with the registrar in Venezuela, who had never seen anybody try to register a copyright on software. I had to explain to the registrar how the process should work from a legal perspective based on international treaties that Venezuela had ratified.

In 1998 I joined Microsoft, where technology and IP are so central that even in the legal department knowledge of those areas is required. I started in the company’s Latin American arm, then moved to Europe, and finally returned to the United States in 2006, where I took the helm at the IP group, and have remained since.

How has your role with Microsoft and your team expanded since Hispanic Executive last featured you in 2012?

Officially, my group has since been re-named. The group I lead has expanded beyond the IP field and is now the innovation and intellectual property group (IIPG). The legal team that supports the advanced strategies and research group, the regulatory affairs team, and the corporate standards group joined us as well.

What was the impetus behind bringing all those groups under one roof?

What all these areas have in common is the ability to enable innovation at Microsoft. The advanced strategies and research team supports Microsoft research labs around the world, facilitating much of the long-term envisioning and innovation. We help labs strike agreements with some of the best research universities around the world, to protect our innovations. The regulatory affairs team has the subject matter expertise on a range of regulatory issues from privacy to security, telecommunications to accessibility. The corporate standards group leads Microsoft’s thinking and engagement with international standards organizations.

What steps are you and Microsoft taking to help protect customers’ privacy?

We clearly inform users of the ways in which their information might be used and provide opportunities to consent before any information is used. I’m lucky that within IIPG we have people who are experts in the subject matter and senior leaders who are experienced in the field. Given the attention to the activities of government agencies and the ways in which private companies mine and use data, there is an opportunity to take action to ensure we strike the right balance between the privacy rights of users and those of the companies providing services.

Given your role as an IP attorney, how satisfying was it to see Microsoft win its case against Motorola and Google in court, where you were a witness?

That case was particularly important because it stands for a proposition that is bigger than the individual case. Google and Motorola had agreed to license industry-standard essential patents on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; there was nothing reasonable or nondiscriminatory about the way they were treating us. Microsoft felt they were demanding unreasonable royalties. That a federal court agreed with Microsoft’s interpretation of the events is significant for the industry as a whole because it was the first time a court in the United States—or anywhere in the world—had clearly established those principles. It was also the first time a court set a rate that was the reasonable and nondiscriminatory rate for the two sets of patents that read on the two standards that were at issue in the case.