High rate of patents, open-source age increase importance of intellectual property issues.
IBM is centralizing and elevating its efforts to oversee intellectual property matters such as patents and copyrights, and Kelly will lead the effort, spokesman Tim Blair said on Wednesday.
"The organization is being formed within the corporation right now," Blair said. "We've had heads of intellectual property for some time, just not at a senior vice president level."
Kelly also will oversee technology leadership efforts such as the IBM Academy, a group that tries to anticipate the most promising directions for future product development, Blair said.
Kelly had headed up IBM's technology group, the organization in charge of microprocessor design and manufacturing. In January, the group combined with the server unit led by Bill Zeitler, who remains in charge of the combined group.
But patents are a balancing act for IBM, in part because of its embrace of open-source software, whose advocates are often critical of software patents. At the same time that Big Blue earns substantial revenue each year from licensing its patents, it also has made decisions such as a pledge not to sue if it finds patent infringement in the Linux kernel.