Apple Inc's chief patent counsel will soon leave the company, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Richard Chip Lutton Junior. manages the iPad and iPod maker's patent portfolio. It is unclear why Lutton is leaving the company, but BJ Watrous, a former deputy general counsel with Hewlett Packard, is now listed as Apple's chief IP counsel on Watrous's LinkedIn web page.

Lutton did not respond to requests for comment, and an Apple representative declined to comment.

Patents have experienced a surge in value and attention in Silicon Valley, with Apple part of a group that received court approval on Monday to buy wireless patents from bankrupt Nortel Networks Corp for $4.5 billion.

Microsoft Corp, Research in Motion Ltd, Apple and three other tech companies successfully banded together to outbid Google for the Nortel patents.

Apple is also engaged in an expanding web of litigation concerning smartphone patents. The company filed a second complaint against HTC before a U.S. trade panel on Friday.

Apple and Samsung are battling over patents in courts around the world, despite the fact that Samsung is one of Apple's key suppliers.

Earlier this month Apple asked a U.S. judge to issue a preliminary injunction against some of Samsung's Galaxy products.

Lutton's voice mail was still set up at Apple on Monday, but he will be leaving Apple in the near future, perhaps in the next month, said the source familiar with the situation.

Watrous was deputy general counsel at Hewlett-Packard in charge of IP licensing. An HP spokesman declined to comment on Monday.

(Editing by Edwin Chan, Greg Mahlich)