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Pamela Passman

Microsoft corporate affairs executive Pamela Passman is leaving the company to form and lead a new advocacy group, with Microsoft’s support and involvement but operating independently.

Passman, a Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel, will be the CEO of the group, dubbed the Center for Responsible Enterprise and Trade (CREATe). It will “focus on promoting responsible business practices including respect for intellectual property,” wrote Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith in a memo today to the company’s legal and corporate affairs department.

Microsoft will be the “founding supporter” of the group, but the organization will be aiming to involve other companies, as well, according to Smith’s memo.

Although the group’s stated charter appears broader than any particular patent battle, the move comes as Microsoft pushes to extract royalties from Android device makers based on its assertion that Google’s mobile operating system violates its intellectual property — which has prompted Google to call the claims “bogus.”

Here’s the background on the group’s formation, as described by Smith in his memo.

As a company we believe passionately in the importance and value of intellectual property.  Respect for IP rights fuels innovation and economic growth in the societies we serve.  We’ve seen how companies and countries that embrace responsible business practices, including the use of legal IT, promote fair competition and create jobs and opportunities as a result.

Over many years multi-national companies have played a positive role in promoting responsible business practices in their global supply chains.  Over the past 20 years these efforts have addressed a wide array of issues, including product safety and environmental standards, working conditions, and responsible business practices.   We believe there is an opportunity to use a similar approach to promote a broader set of responsible business practices, including the legal use of software.  I therefore asked Pamela last spring to develop a plan for potential work with a range of stakeholders – including multi-nationals, NGOs and labor organizations – to advance these issues.

As Pamela did a good deal of outreach it became clear that these issues were of interest to many different organizations and that a new advocacy organization, independent of any one company, could play a vital role in advancing the interests of this broad group. I couldn’t be more delighted that Pamela has agreed to take on the leadership of the new organization.  She will step down from Microsoft to become the founding CEO and President of the Center for Responsible Enterprise and Trade (CREATe).   Microsoft is the founding supporter of CREATe, but we expect many other organizations to join and support the effort over time.  Pamela and the CREATe team will have more details to share on the new organization in the weeks ahead.

Passman has been at Microsoft for 15 years, involved in a range of philanthropic, legal, regulatory and community initiatives.

Smith wrote in his memo, “Pamela has worked across the company and around the world, helping to define what it means to be a good corporate citizen and to focus our resources where they can have the biggest impact. ”

Microsoft’s Mary Snapp and Lori Harnick are expected to assume Passman’s responsibilities when she leaves at the end of the month.

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