June 12, 2017
Years after graduating from The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) and well into her established career in patent and intellectual property litigation, Catherine Lacavera (CompE 9T7) ran into someone she hadn’t seen since the first year of her undergraduate studies.
“It’s funny, the person said: ‘you were always going to be a patent lawyer at a big company,’” says Lacavera. “I guess that’s what I had said in my first year of undergrad, but I had forgotten that I had started out with that in mind.”
An internationally recognized leader in the field of intellectual property law, and the Director of IP, Litigation and Employment at Google, Lacavera and her team have handled more than 1000 patent lawsuits, along with all types of other litigation involving Google, around the world. On June 13, Lacavera will return to where she first set her ambitious career goals when the University of Toronto recognizes her career and contributions to her alma mater with a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
“My connection to the University of Toronto is so special to me,” says Lacavera. “It’s been 20 years since I graduated from ECE and this is where my career started: U of T Engineering was absolutely the foundation of everything I’ve done since.”
While her path to intellectual property law was established early, it has taken her on some unexpected and ground-breaking legal journeys. From cell phone wars, to major legal battles with international media conglomerates, Lacavera and her team at Google have helped to shape the internet as we know it — and the content on it. “It’s been really thrilling to help defend principles I feel strongly about,” says Lacavera. “A free and open internet, the availability of user-generated content and really paving the way to enable smaller players to innovate: these are all things I’m proud to have been a part of at Google.”
Despite managing a team of 150 attorneys, technical advisors and paralegals, overseeing a global litigation docket and advising on complex licenses and acquisitions, including the acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion and the acquisition of Nest for $3.2 billion, Lacavera has remained a committed volunteer with the University of Toronto. She serves on ECE’s Alumni Board of Advisors, U of T’s Entrepreneurship Leadership Council, U of T’s International Leadership Council, and as a mentor and advisor with the Entrepreneurship Hatchery.
Her volunteer roles keep her busy, but they also keep her motivated. “It’s so energizing to work with students and engineers who are building things and who are hungry and excited about the world,” says Lacavera. “Frankly, I couldn’t get enough of it: it’s been so rewarding and encouraging — such a positive experience.”
A triple alumna of the University of Toronto, Lacavera received her Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Engineering, Juris Doctorate and Masters of Business Administration at U of T. Her excitement for the graduating class is the same excitement she felt 20 years ago when she first crossed the stage at Convocation Hall. “I remember thinking that it was such an exciting time to be an engineer,” says Lacavera. “And the same is true now: they are graduating with so much power to shape and influence the world.”
While she encourages the graduating class to go out into the world; she also urges them to stay connected to U of T. “That connection has been such a tremendously rewarding experience for me as an alumna,” says Lacavera. “U of T represents every field of endeavour, every field of excellence and so anything you want to learn about or be engaged with, there’s an opportunity to do so at the University of Toronto — I really encourage them to keep that connection.”
Lacavera has received numerous accolades over the course of her career; she’s been named one of Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40 and has been named one of the world’s 50 most influential people in IP by Managing IP. But receiving recognition from her alma mater is particularly special for her. “It’s huge a honor and I will continue to work to be worthy of it,” says Lacavera. “I’m so thrilled to have the privilege to be so engaged with the University of Toronto; it’s just like coming home.”
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The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering