Thursday, February 02, 2006

TecH: Blackberries and Patents (an opinion!)

I'm going to go out a limb here. RIM is the winner. NOT NTP!

For the uninformed; A Blackberry is a two way pager device that can send/receive Email.
Also for the uninformed: The company making the Blackberry (RIM) is being sued by another company (NTP) for patent infringement.
Also for the uninformed, NTP, the plantiff, has won the case, and the Judge in case is expected to issue a decision on Feb 24th.

The reason that I am writing this is because I keeping seeing "professionals" in the industry starting to raise the alarm saying RIM will need to shut down the service.

OK. NTP sued RIM for patent infringement.

RIM offered a settlement to NTP to license the patents. NTP refused, and then RIM decided not to make another offer. (shades of the New York City Transit strike, where the first settlement offer seems to be better then the offer after the workers rejected the contract.)

Judge has heard case, and strongly suggested that they settle.
US Supreme Court has declined to hear the case, (last winner in court was NTP, therefore they were affirmed, and currently the winners)

PROBLEMS with this view
Several problems exist with the view that NTP has successfully defended their patents.
The first problem is that out of the 5 patents FTP has, 4 of them have ALREADY been invalidated.
The second is that the fifth patent has just been deemed "likely to be invalidated" by the patent examiner, (This may not be formally confirmed till October of this year).

OK. Now comes Feburary 24th, the date the Judge in this patent infringement trial issues his decision.

NTP has stated that they will give RIM 30 days before requesting that their user's blackberries be shut off.
IF the judge does this, is the Judge personally liable for a bad decision, when the fifth patent is reversed?
Will any settlement imposed by the Judge require NTP to repay all monies to RIM when this is invalidated?
Would NTP REALLY risk a restraint of trade suit for requiring a full shutdown of the Blackberry network?

So. Based on the likelihood of the invalidation of all five patents, I believe that NTP will in the long run, fold, and or settle for a very small amount.