Posted February 24th, 2016 by Jamie Hunter

Catherine Lacavera: Google’s IP and litigation all-star

  • Catherine Lacavera (CompE 9T7) has been director of IP and litigation at Google for more than 10 years, where she and her team handle one per cent of all patent litigation in the United States. (Photo: Google)

This article is part five of a five-part series on #EngineeringtheUnexpected, in celebration of the first Global Day of the Engineer on February 24, 2016

Catherine Lacavera (CompE 9T7) never wanted to become an engineer. From day one, her intent was to become a patent lawyer — but receiving an engineering education was an important part of her career plan.

“First and foremost, an engineering degree gives you instantaneous credibility among other engineers and attorneys,” said Lacavera, director of intellectual property law and litigation at Google. “People know that engineering gives you a baseline education in math and science. A lot of what I do at Google requires a technical understanding of software and hardware, and the Internet. My underlying technical knowledge helps me understand my work.”

But her U of T Engineering degree provided her with more than just technical knowledge. Lacavera engineered a workflow for the way her office at Google handles patent litigation cases.

“You can bring innovation into whatever job you are doing,” she said. “My team is designed around what I call the ‘Model T Ford of patent litigation’ because we’ve create these processes for how every case is handled — from soup to nuts, every aspect of litigation. That’s engineering. We’re handing fully one per cent of all patent litigation in the United States, and we wouldn’t be able to scale at that rate or to that level with such a small team without that type of process in place.”

Lacavera joined Google in 2005 after spending nearly four years at White & Case LLP, a global law firm based in New York City. She has advised on a number of high-profile and complex licenses and acquisitions during her time at Google, including the acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, the acquisition of Nest for $3.2 billion, the sale of Motorola Home to Arris for $2.2 billion and the $490-million multi-party license with Tivo. In 2013, Fortune magazine named her one of its “40 Under 40” and called her “Google’s secret weapon in the smartphone wars.”

“I’ve been fortunate — I have an amazing team,” she said. “Google attracts great talent … there’s a willingness to put resources behind and fight for principle, which has allowed me to be successful.”

Lacavera is also an engaged volunteer and donor at U of T Engineering. She currently sits on The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Alumni Advisory Board and is involved with The Entrepreneurship Hatchery. In 2015, she gave a plenary lecture to the incoming U of T Engineering undergraduate class.