Richi Jennings

Ding! NTP vs. CrackBerry round #3728 (and I/O brush)

January 24, 2006 5:40 AM EST
In today's IT Blogwatch, RIM's BlackBerry woes continue -- you didn't think you'd heard the last of it, did you? Not to mention MIT's really cool I/O brush...

Poor BlackBerry users, this can't be good news for them or RIM. Our story gives the background: "The U.S. Supreme Court today turned down a request to review a major patent infringement ruling against the maker of the BlackBerry e-mail device. The high court rejected a petition by Research In Motion Ltd. to review a federal appeals court ruling that could lead to a shutdown of most U.S. BlackBerry sales and service ... The case goes back to 2002, when patent-holder NTP Inc. successfully sued RIM in a lower court. It won an injunction in 2003 to halt U.S. sales of the BlackBerry and shut down its service, although that ruling was stayed pending appeal. The appeals court scaled back the initial ruling but still concluded that RIM infringed on NTP patents. RIM and NTP reached a tentative $450 million settlement on the dispute in March, but the deal fell apart in June. RIM wants the lower court to enforce the agreement."

» Dennis Crouch reports: "Another in a series of setbacks in RIM’s patent defense. The Court's refusal to grant certiorari means that this case will quickly come to a head at the district court level. A hearing is now expected within the next few weeks to determine the scope of any eventual injunction that may be issued. On a broader scale, the Federal Circuit's decision opened the gate for patentees to assert their patents against 'transnational' systems. In RIM's case, the appellate court held that NTP's patent's could be infringed even though the BlackBerry maker’s routers and servers were located in Canada." [Dennis also previously wrote on the RIM appeal that led up to this decision]

» Ars's Eric Bangeman: "The fate of RIM's US fortunes are once again in the hands of US District Court Judge James Spencer ... Throughout the dispute, RIM has had a two-pronged strategy of appealing unfavorable legal rulings while attempting to get NTP's patents overturned. The decision of the Supreme Court left RIM's judicial losing streak largely intact, but the US Patent and Trademark Office has been much kinder to the BlackBerry maker. Late in December, the USPTO took the unusual step of notifying the two parties that they intended to overturn all of NTP's patents ... NTP will appeal, giving the whole tired saga another lease on life ... could drag out for some time while NTP appeals ... At the very least, it looks like BlackBerry users' fears that the US BlackBerry network will go dark will not be realized anytime soon."

» Newsgator: "According to RIM, while review by the Supreme Court is generally uncommon, the company sought review because it believes the case raises significant national and international issues ... RIM maintains that an injunction is inappropriate given the specific facts of this case, including the rejection of NTP patent claims by the Patent Office ...  there is the ability to fully compensate NTP through ongoing royalty payments in lieu of an injunction ... RIM has been busy preparing software workaround designs which it intends to implement if necessary to maintain the operation of BlackBerry services in the United States."

» CyricZ shone a ray of sensibility into the legal maze: "The waste is underhyped. Regardless of the outcome, the end result is still wasted resources. Years of legal action costs quite a bit. Even just the financial resources, let alone the time, wasted on such endeavors could be better put towards technical research. At least then we'd have something productive to show in the end. While many claim that patents strive to increase the efficiency of the market, it is quite clear they do not. Indeed, the resources funneled off to deal with this legal battle could have actually been used for useful means. Anyone who strives for an efficient market cannot condone this sort of wasteful behavior."

» Worf, made a couple of interesting comments at Gizmodo: "If the blackberry is shut down, Congress will pass a law making it legal. Maybe they'll even call for patent reform. (Remember the US Government is one of the largest users of Blackberries around (around 10%), and those politicians, if they lose their crackberries, they'll see to it that it gets fixed.) Why do you think the NTP 'settlement' allows RIM to keep operating the network for the US Government? Of course, even at 10%, it isn't profitable to continue running the network... Wonder what would happen if RIM were to sue back for damages (since NTP won't have the resources)... RIM owning the entirety of NTP's patent portfolio. Scary."

Buffer overflow: And finally... MIT's I/O Brush: The world as the Palette ... take a gander at one of the videos (bottom of the page)
Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk. Also contributing to today's post: Judi Dey, our very own Antipodean.