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Supreme Court spurns RIM 336

l2718 writes "NTP has just won the latest round in its court battle against Research in Motion (makers of the Blackberry). Today's Order List from the US Supreme Court includes a denial of certiorary for RIM's appeal. This follows the Circuit Court of Appeals' denial of review en banc we have covered previously. As sometimes happens, the court nevertheless accepted amicus curiae briefs from several groups, including Intel and the Canadian government." The potential impact of this may mean the shutdown of Blackberry's network. I hope the crackberry addicts have lots of methadone onhand.
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Supreme Court spurns RIM

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  • Over-hyped nonsense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JehCt ( 879940 ) * on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:24PM (#14541236) Homepage Journal
    RIM has already stated that they have a technology workaround that does not infringe the "patents." When the injunction comes down, they'll patch the software and go about their merry business. NTP will make another motion, and it will be boxed around by the courts for a few more years. Hopefully, by which time, the USPTO will invalidate the bogus patents upon which NTP bases their claims.
    • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:32PM (#14541324)
      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 endeavours 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 behaviour.

      • Why not just go ahead and use the workaround? What's the point of keep going for RIM with the lawsuit? The sooner they settle, the better. Are they so crazy to let the worse happen (shutdown)? I don't think it's going to happen. However I'd be very nervous if I owned a Blackberry.
      • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:56PM (#14541605) Journal
        I think (but I'm not sure) that the gov't/courts can force mandatory licensing for certain types of patents.

        Anyways, if you want greater market efficiency, then you should like the idea of binding arbitration. It's cheaper than a law suit, but you lose out on the 'due process' portion of the law.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:25PM (#14542545)
          I think (but I'm not sure) that the gov't/courts can force mandatory licensing for certain types of patents.
          The is no such thing as mandatory licensing in the United States. There is, however, in Japan and some other countries. In those countries that do have such a requirement, it is only applied where the technology is necessary for the economic health of the country. The Blackberry doesn't rise to that level, particularly where (as here) the use of the technology by the U.S. government is specifically exempted from the court ruling.
      • by xiphoris ( 839465 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:54PM (#14542235) Homepage
        I do not think people claim that patents exist to increase the efficiency of the market. In fact, it could be very pursuasively argued that they lead to a less efficient market, at least for a short period of time.

        Patents are granted for a similar reason to copyright: to promote the science and arts. How can creating inefficient monopolies do this, you ask? Easy: incentives. There are two important parts to the incentives that benefit society overall.

        Let's say you're a business. You're reasonably sure that with $1.5 billion USD and 5 years of time you could have an AIDS vaccine. Most of the cost of these medicines is in the *research*, not the production of the actual serum. Without patent protection, once you have a serum, tens of companies around the world will analyze it and duplicate it in short time. They will undercut your price, since they don't have that $1.5B investment to pay off. As a result, businesses will not undertake such endeavors because market efficiency will make them unprofitable! Is that the world you want? Patents allow risky investments to pay off.

        The other alternative is to attempt to keep all research & developments closely guarded secrets. Now, perhaps one medical company distributes the SARS vaccine, AIDS, and avian flu. Nobody else knows how the stuff works or how to produce it. Development as a whole in society slows because, if you want to make money, you can't share your scientific developments with anyone. Every company must invent the wheel over and over again, because they cannot work together. Is *that* the world you want? Patents induce monopolies to share their research.

        In the former case, patents allow developing this $1.5B AIDS vaccine to make smart business sense because you *know* you'll earn it back. In the latter case, scientific progress as a whole in the world is improved because, once someone has that AIDS vaccine, they must publish a specification of how it works (that's the patent) in order to protect their business. Then, everyone else can learn from their techniques and perhaps a different group applies it to cancer.

        That is a world I am happy with. Businesses may undertake science, earn profit from research, and everyone else learns their results and methods.

        Now, whether the patent office is correctly granting patents is an entirely separate issue. Patents should be granted justly, not frivolously. But that does not mean the idea of patents is broken. Perhaps you may wish to suggest shorter patent lifespans, higher burden of proof, etc.
        • by rkcallaghan ( 858110 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:46PM (#14542752)
          You've described the ideal situation for patents, and I don't think anyone here or elsewhere would disagree that the situation you described is a good one, and the one intended[1] by the patent system.

          The problem lies in that our system now works nothing like that. Patents are granted simply on the basis of whether the examiner understands the patent, not whether it is truely unique. Companies spend a fortune to write patents in obsfucated and ambiguous manners, making them generally useless for reference and ambiguous enough to apply to anyone who even thinks about being a competitor. It is that perversion which leads:

          Then, everyone else can learn from their techniques and perhaps a different group applies it to cancer.

          To fail, as the patent owner will still suit you in to oblivion faster than you can say "one click". The intentionally ambiguous patents will come out of the woodwork too, leaving you tied up in so many court cases you're almost sure to be bankrupt. Until this is fixed and things are forced to be more in line with your given scenario, the market and the lawyers are going to lie, cheat, and steal their way to victory. It's almost a common fact these days that the best way to get rich is to financially ruin someone else and cheat them out of their work.


          [1] The tangent of evil lawyers designing a broken system to give themselves future jobs is beyond the scope of this thread.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            >>You've described the ideal situation for patents, and I don't think anyone here or elsewhere would disagree that the situation you described is a good one, and the one intended[1] by the patent system.

            You've described the worst-case situation for patents, and I don't think anyone here or elsewhere would disagree that the situation you described is a bad one, and the one not intended[1] by the patent system.

            Patents and software have more similarities than you might imagine. They both provide value b
        • I disagree about the worthwhile nature of patents.

          Lets start with enforcing foreign held patents. If you enforce foreign held patents on local companies, then effectively you're taxing local businesses and harming local customers, for no benefit to your nation. If you're a non first world country, then likely your research funding is retarded by all the existing patents coming from first world nations. Take existing AIDS treatments; sub-saharan african countries were unable to afford to buy patented medicin
    • by lilmouse ( 310335 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:38PM (#14541389)
      <sigh>'re probably right. *I*, however, would dearly love to see the US Govt. gets its services cut because of the stupididity that patents are in this country!

      It's scary to read a sci-fi book about the future where someone can download several gig of public information...and realize that our "IP" laws don't allow that sort of thing...

      Anyway, I raise a toast to NTP, wish them great luck, and hope the Blackberries stop working here - we need a real wake-up call!

    • by jjeffrey ( 558890 ) *
      > RIM has already stated that they have a technology workaround that does not infringe the "patents."

      You believe them? I'm not sure I do. We don't know the exact details because of the NDAs but given it's 8 patents it sounds like a massive piece of work to me, presumably it could mean changing the device firmward on every device and changing the backend at the same time.

      Even if they do have a technical solution, a large change to a massive live system like this, it's likely carries a very high risk.

    • NTP will probably try to have their patents amended to include the workarounds.

    • It's also overhyped nonsense for another reason: all RIM has to do is pay the money the lower courts have already deemed they owe and the whole issue goes away. If push comes to shove, RIM will simply pay up rather than have their entire business shut down. Of course, "Corporation Pays Licensing Fee." isn't the sort of headline that sells newspapers or TV adspace. It's much more profitable to be a sensationalist fearmonger - "Your Blackberry is gonna die! There's Radon in your basement! Tune in at 11
    • The USPTO has issued preliminary rulings that all five of NTP's patents in question are invalid and is set to issue a final ruling very soon. What happens then? Can RIM sue NTP for attempting to enforce invalid patents? Can RIM sue the USPTO for incompetence? I don't have much sympathy for RIM, regardless. They had ample opportunity to settle with NTP and they squandered it. Which raises another question, what would have happened if RIM had settled and the USPTO issues their final ruling that all of NTP's p
    • What hallarious is RIM offered NTP what was it half a billion dollars or something. And they turned it down? If I was an investor in NTP I'd be angry as hell cause they will likly get nothing if they push it too far.
  • by Sierpinski ( 266120 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:26PM (#14541259)

    Perhaps it would be bad time to ask for a RIM job.


    • I used to work in electronics retail in Vancouver. Rogers launched RIM service back in 1997 (I think it was 1997) and all managers were given demo RIM units to use. It became quite common among managers to jokingly ask each other to "RIM me". The Rogers area sales reps were not happy when that term caught on around work. They though it was "disrpectful". Whatever. It was funny to hear one manager yell to another manager, "RIM me with the inventory levels on [insert product], will you?" Ah, the good old days
    • Bad Taste (Score:3, Funny)

      by nightsweat ( 604367 )
      That joke was in bad taste.
      br Ayohhhh!
  • NEVER! (Score:4, Funny)

    by PastAustin ( 941464 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:28PM (#14541278)
    They can have my Blackberry when they pry it from my cold, dead hands. I think I'm getting Blackberry thumb so I hope that's soon. Ouch... It hurts.
  • Alternatives (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:31PM (#14541318) Journal
    What are the alternatives to the BlackBerry?

    And I don't mean "roll your own" setups, but full fledged enterprise level products.

    RIM can't be the only company that offers such a service.
    • The stock is only down 2.5%, so I suspect the alternative will be offered by RIM themselves.
    • Treo, the new ones are based off of Windows Mobile and are pretty slick. Verizon has been pushing them: []
    • What are the alternatives to the BlackBerry?

      At the university where I work, we just started looking into NotifyLink []. Sorry I can't give you any anecdotes from usage yet, as we're just getting the server up for this. However, it looks promising: it does wireless sync for a wide range of wireless handhelds [] available, to either of our back end SunOne or Exchange servers.

    • We happen to use Goodlink's software & service, which even runs on RIM hardware. From what I've heard, Goodlink paid NTP's ransom -er, I mean License, so their service will continue without interruption.
    • 'nuff said.
  • I don't understand why NTP has a case at all. I thought the USPTO announced that it would rule against NTP's patents. -to-give-support/ []

    I believe that the USPTO hasn't ruled yet, but given that they've announced that they will rule in favor of RIM, I don't know how NTP could enforce an injuction against RIM.
    • by robertjw ( 728654 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:39PM (#14541400) Homepage
      The judge actually stated that he will uphold the USPTO's CURRENT position. He is only interested in enforcing the patent, not determining it's validity. That's probably why RIM hasn't settled this already. They want to drag it out in the hope that the USPTO will actually invalidate NTP's patents sometime in the near future.

      This whole case is an amazing example of bureaucracy at 'work'.
    • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:42PM (#14541444) Homepage
      NTP are exploiting weaknesses in the system.

      So long as the USPTO has not ruled, they can blackmail RIM. They just need to get the court to agree to shutdown RIM for one day, to win the huge amounts of money they are seeking. The USPTO can invalidate whatever patents they like after that, it's not going to affect the deal they strike.

      This is a perfect case of patent agression. Experts in the legal process extorting huge amounts from innovators. Welcome to the way business is going to be run for the next decades.
      • Why hasn't RIM filed for a temporary extension until the USPTO has ruled?

        If NTP wasn't able to get a preliminary injuction to stop RIM, it means the judge didn't think NTP was being harmed by RIM's ongoing business... and therefore, there's no reason why a reasonable delay should be unacceptable.
        • As I understand it, the judge is tired of the case and all of the legal maneuvering, and wants it off of his plate. The case has been going on for years, and is, on its face, a straightforward patent issue, unlike things like the SCO case, which have a few convoluted turns in them such as the purchase/license/copyright issues with Novell.
      • In IP deals, is is not unusual to have all sorts of "outs" if the IP is ruled invalid, held by others, or already in the public domain. For NTP not to accept such an "out" is tantmount to admitting the ir IP is invalid. Presumably, they think it's valid. And it may well be, or RIM would have got a stay on the injunction.

    • by beldraen ( 94534 ) <> on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:44PM (#14541468)
      Sadly, I have been hoping for RIM to fail. The reason why is know that people do not change things until a massive, irrational event occurs in a system before people will attempt to fix it.

      The judges have been ruling correctly. Regardless of whether or not the Patent Office should not granted the patents or it plans to over turn the patents is and should be irrelevant. The patents HAVE been granted and the courts are obligated to protect them. It's like making up rules for a game and then in the middle deciding which rules are and are not going to be enforced. At best it makes the game an irritation, at worse it makes it unplayable. The Patent Office has got this idea that it can "do over" anything it wants so it grants over 90% of the crap that flows through. The courts are obligated to protect the crap, as per law; otherwise, the courts would BE the Patent Office, if they decided what was and was not a real patent.
      • by mhollis ( 727905 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:22PM (#14541894) Journal

        This is a truly insightful comment:

        The patents HAVE been granted and the courts are obligated to protect them. It's like making up rules for a game and then in the middle deciding which rules are and are not going to be enforced.

        This is exactly the same as the Supreme Court deciding in favor of the City of New London, Connecticut in Kelo v. City of New London [] which has raised considerable furor and activism [] in one Justice's home town. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion: "The court should not 'second-guess' local governments ..." and neither ought it to "second-guess" the federal government in this case.

        We have a Constitutional right to petition our government for redress in this area of patent. We are grumbling about this presently but I don't see any marches on Washington by geeks like us who want to demand changes to the law.

        I also don't see an amicus brief on our behalf, either.

      • The patents HAVE been granted and the courts are obligated to protect them.

        The courts are obligated to consider all the relevant facts including the validity, scope and enforceability of the patent when there is a dispute. The courts acting as a rubber stamp for the patent office is just aas bad as the patent office acting as a rubber stamp for the patents in the first place.

  • by Shanep ( 68243 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:46PM (#14541485) Homepage
    that this actually could kill RIM.

    The potential impact of this may mean the shutdown of Blackberry's network.

    Surely this would not mean that the Blackberry network would be shutdown? Am I naive to think that this would instead mean that RIM's value would decend constantly, nobody would want to buy them EXCEPT for NTP, who would buy them at rock bottom prices and then aquire the network and most importantly the customer base (ie. high pressure money pipe) which goes with it?

    "The" law seems to be grossly manipulated by good actors (plaintiffs, lawyers, attorneys, barristers, witnesses, etc) who work it for nothing but money. It seems that rather than seeing themselves needing to defend their property, they instead see opportunity to take someone elses "in the name of defending their own".
    • I don't know, if I was RIM in that situation, I might just send out one final email to everybody on the network explaining why they're about to go down (including a link to the NTP guys) and then shut the network down. That's probably a bit too passive-agressive for a major company though.

      Strangely enough, the goverment ruled that Blackberry can't shut down the part of the network it uses, no matter what the outcome. It turns out that Blackberries get used by people in critical positions and they can'
    • NTP has no interest in buying RIM or running a network of their own. They just want to get a piece of the action for doing basically nothing.
    • They have other choices. Two obvious ones are 1) work around (they already said they have one) and 2) pay.

      They have already offered to pay 450 million so I am sure a deal could be struck. As for working around the problem I am sure they would have to pay for the time they were infringing but it would be a separate lawsuit. By working around they would be admitting that they violated the patent so that's kind of a no brainer as far as lawsuits go.

      So the choices are pay, pay or go out of business. It seems l
  • methadone? (Score:3, Funny)

    by xmedar ( 55856 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:50PM (#14541532)
    Surely that should be metha-phone?
  • Since I know practically zip about this litigation and these patent issues, the first place I went after reading the headline was to google for a briefing. Here, I found the following: []

    NTP, which has no employees, convinced a jury in Spencer's Richmond, Virginia, courtroom in 2002 that Research In Motion had infringed patents related to wireless e-mail.

    I know the assininity (is that a word?) of this has been phrased and rephrased many times in many discussions, but... WTF?!? Aren't patents supposed to protect inventors/innovators? I may be jumping to conclusions about NTP, but how can a company that exists solely to litigate patent-infringers get away with what it does?

    I envision a land where there are "justices" appointed because they are "just", and "judge" based on the heart behind a simpler code of "justice," rather than human turing machines stripped of the power to truly judge, trying to apply an ugly and endless stream of spaghetti-legislation to human, nonlinear situations?

    Did such an idealized system of law ever exist? May it yet? I don't know, but the more I learn about politics and legislation the more similarities I see between the modern process of developing laws and the process of developing software... I don't doubt that there are some legislators who would, if given a machine with the ability, replace human judges altogether in favor of a more predictible expert system.

    Tangent? Yes. Rant? Yes. Tinfoil hat? Maybe. Relevant? You decide.
    • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:18PM (#14541848)

      I think you miss a level of complexity in economics here. Patents exist not to protect inventors, but to give them a monetary incentive to innovate: we (the people) promise them a limited monopoly in return for a disclosure of their invention. I say nothing about the merits of the patents in the instant lawsuit since I haven't read them.

      Now there are different ways a patent-holding inventor can make money off his monopoly. Remeber -- the inventor is good at inventing things, but not necessarily at the business end of things, at marketing, or at using patent law to protect the monopoly he's supposed to have. Therefore, one way for the inventor to make money from his monopoly without being a businessman or a lawyer is to sell the rights for the invention. Along the way it's important to remember that money today is worth more than money tomorrow.

      For example, a venture capitalist might buy the rights for the patent and make a product. The inventor gets money up front (before any units are sold!), and everyone is happy. The risk was shared (the inventor took the risk that the research won't get far enough to be patentable; the venture capitalist that there will be no product or that it will fail), and the same is true for the income. The capitalist moved moeny from the future to the present for the inventor, and this is also worth something. You should compare both the risk assumption and the financing issues of this scenario with the one where the inventor goes to the bank, gets a loan, and tries to develop and market the product himself.

      Elsewhere, someone else is selling a product which infringes on the patents held by our inventor. He has no way of profiting from his past work on the invention unless he can effectuate the monopoly we promised him by suing the patent infringers. However, our inventor is not a lawyer. As in the case above, he probably doesn't have the capital to invest in a lawsuit. So one way for him to make money off his investment is to sell the patent to the lawyer. This way he gets the money up front, while the lawyer agrees to pay for the legal costs and takes the risk that the lawsuit will fail. That's no different from the case above.

      Think of the transaction as follows: you want a lawyer to defend your patent, but you don't have the cash to pay the lawyer. You therefore pay the lawyer with the rights to the patent itself. Of course you expect the patent to be worth more than the laywer's fees, so the lawyer has to pay you back up front for the difference. Again compare this with the scenario where the inventor takes a loan to pay the lawyer. What happens if the lawsuit fails?

    • NTP, which has no employees, convinced a jury in Spencer's Richmond, Virginia, courtroom in 2002 that Research In Motion had infringed patents related to wireless e-mail.

      "Convinced a jury"? No offense to the layperson, but most people wouldn't understand this stuff, and with laypeople on a jury like this, mistakes are bound to happen. The US needs a system to make sure that in civil trials like this, the jury is educated enough (either by selecting only people who would understand this, or by having a
    • To really blow your mind, you need to know that all of NTP's patents have recently been invalidated by the patent office. So not only does a patent shed win against a company that actually makes something, but with bogus patents to boot.
  • by John Napkintosh ( 140126 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @02:55PM (#14541589) Homepage
    What exactly is the Blackberry service? What does this mean for Sprint/Nextel customers?

    Many folks in my office have Blackberry phones with the Nextel 2-way service, but our service is provided through Nextel. As far as I know, we are billed directly by Nextel and don't have a "Blackberry service", which leads me to believe that the Blackberry service in question here isn't exactly what I think it is.
    • What exactly is the Blackberry service? What does this mean for Sprint/Nextel customers?

      If this ruling would eradicate the crackberry addicts and the Nextel bleeping dipshits in one fell swoop, that would finally prove the existance of god.
    • OK, it works like this --

      Your company has a box (Blackberry Enterprise Server) which hooks into Exchange or Lotus Notes. All [configured] email is forwarded over an encrypted link over the Internet (a VPN of sorts, if you like) to RIMs headquarters in Waterloo, Canada. As I understand it, it is the local BES software that strips out attachements and formatting etc to shrink the message as much as possible.

      Meanwhile your Blackberry device opens an encrypted connection over GPRS to RIM, through your cellular
  • by Anonymous Coward
    or the headline woulda read:

    Supreme Court spurns RIM, Jobs

  • Well - this is going to sound like a Naive solution so I'll toss it out to see where the holes are.

    Encript all traffic. Then the DCMA and DRM laws kick in and it is illegal for anyone to attempt to read the communications. IE - even the ATTEMPT to read is illegal.

    Then you can do what you want - route the packets through Canadian Servers - or Nigerian - or whereever you like. Keep the servers secure and under constant guard.

    End of issue.

    This will leave the end users open I suppose. But then NTP will hav
    • Encript all traffic. Then the DCMA and DRM laws kick in and it is illegal for anyone to attempt to read the communications. IE - even the ATTEMPT to read is illegal.

      Then you can do what you want - route the packets through Canadian Servers - or Nigerian - or whereever you like. Keep the servers secure and under constant guard.

      End of issue.

      Unfortunately not:

      Company initiates lawusit under the belief that you may be violating their patents.

      Company issues discovery requests to you.

      If you refuse to disc

  • SCOTUS Order (Score:3, Informative)

    by smcdow ( 114828 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:12PM (#14541766) Homepage
    05-763 RESEARCH IN MOTION, LTD. V. NTP, INC. The motion of Intel Corporation for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The motion of Canadian Chamber of Commerce, et al. for leave to file a brief as amici curiae is granted. The motion of Government of Canada for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.
  • This angers me (Score:2, Redundant)

    Why should blackberry consumers pay a %50 tax on the companies legal defense from a counter company that doesn't make anything only buys patents to sue people?

    Do they even make any products at all? They are a patent purchasing firm that just hires lawyers to buy patents and sue people and pass the money onto us the consumer.

    Worse the money used to win the case will now be used to obtain other patents so they can SUE even more people and pass the cost on to us.

    What service are they providing the economy? Wha
    • RTFA idiot !!!! (Score:2, Informative)

      by fizteh89 ( 858158 )
      Yes, read the fucking articles about this particular case, my dear little retarded friend.

      NTP is not a patent buying outfit - it was founded by an engineer who
      actually built and demonstrated techology prototypes back in 80's and early 90's.

      He died of cancer last year.

      If you, my little moron, work on something for 5 years, build some prototype technology, patent it and then something bad happens to you, e.g. you get cancer and die, do you want some large corporation just start using your patented technology
      • Chill out, fizteh. I try to limit myself to saying things on the Internet I would also say in real life. So he didn't read the FA. Doesn't mean you need to pop a blood vessel and hammer away angrily at your keyboard.
  • by rewt66 ( 738525 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:17PM (#14541833)
    ... and no, I don't mean his IQ or his ethics.

    If the patents are valid, then the patent-holder should be able to get relief from an infringer in the courts. The patents are assumed valid. So rather than wait for the PTO to get around to ruling on whether the patents really are valid, the judge is avoiding "justice delayed" by moving the case forward.

    But the PTO seems to think that the patents may not be valid.

    But the judge can't rule based on the "maybe" that is all that he's gotten from the PTO so far.

    Now, it would be reasonable for the judge to say, given that there is still question about the validity of the patents, and given that the patent holder does not have a competing business that will be injured by competition from RIM/Blackberry, and given how much RIM's business would be injured by an injunction, the balance favors waiting for the PTO to rule on the validity and taking things from there. But it isn't as cut and dried as all the techies are making it sound, because it isn't cut and dried that the patents are garbage, and even if it is, it isn't certain what the PTO will rule. This creates a very sticky mess for the judge.
  • alternatives! (Score:3, Informative)

    by idlake ( 850372 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:27PM (#14541945)
    There are plenty of alternatives.

    If you want something that "just works", get a Danger Hiptop from T-Mobile: it's cheaper and a lot nicer than the Blackberry ever was.

    Otherwise, the Palm Treos are the obvious choice. Use IMAP for mail, with the new mail notification extension and you get all the Blackberry features and a lot more.

    Finally, the Nokia communicators look nice, although I haven't used one regularly. The bluetooth-only model looked like a nice compromise between power and size; there'll probably be an updated version soon that gives you 802.11 in the small form factor as well. Again, IMAP is the way to go for mail.
  • Main Entry: extortion
    Pronunciation: ik-'stor-sh&n
    Function: noun
    1 : the act or practice of extorting esp. money or other property; specifically : the act or practice of extorting by a public official acting under color of office
    2 : the crime of extorting --extortionate /-sh&-n&t/ adjective --extortioner noun --extortionist /-sh&-nist/ noun

    NTP is a patent holding company. It has shareholders and a board, and their sole purpose is to acquire patents that may be enforceable. That is, find a co

  • Too bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:53PM (#14542228)
    Too bad. I think RIM has a case given that their servers are ex-USA. Of course, the USA too often thinks it owns the whole world when it comes to patent and copyright enforcement -- and I'm a USA citizen saying this.
  • by csoto ( 220540 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:09PM (#14542400)
    millions of weary thumbs rejoice...
  • by joeyblades ( 785896 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:16PM (#14542472)
    I detect a largely pro-RIM, anti-NTP crowd here. There are a lot of misconceptions being touted on this board, which makes me think few of you have actually bothered to look at the facts...

    First, as far as I can tell, the NTP patents are valid. The original inventor Thomas Campana did, indeed invent and demonstrate the first wireless email solution. Campana built prototypes to demonstrate the proof-of-concept and filed for and received patents. He did everything he was supposed to do, from a patent perspective. He was unable to market-ize the solution because there was not sufficient infrastructure, at the time, to support a market. Campana notified a number of companies, including RIM that he held the patents on the invention and was looking for support to product-ize.

    RIM, like most companies, ignored this notification. Unlike most others, RIM went on to build a product based on Campana's invention and then refused to pay him royalties. Campana started to try and litigate, however he didn't have enough money or energy because he was suffering from cancer. He co-founded NTP with a lawyer friend to follow through with the litigation.

    The reason that the US patent office is reconsidering the patents has nothing to do with the validity of the patents and everything to do with political pressure from the Canadian and US governments, as well as a number of large corporate investors that have a lot to lose. Politics!

    Campana has already lost. He died of cancer, never receiving the monies or credit that he was due.

    NTP continues to fight the battle as a matter of principle. The are not simply some law firm trying to get rich off of someone else's ideas. They are trying to force RIM to do the right thing and to send out a warning that being big doesn't entitle a company to steal.

    People are so eager to believe that it's always the lawyers that that are evil. Unfortunately, in our zeal to blame the lawyers, we sometimes find ourselves on the wrong side of the fight! Sometimes the lawyers do fight real injustices.

    I'm not a lawyer - I'm an engineer, so my bias is in favor of Thomas Campana and anyone wanting to protect their original inventions!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2006 @05:23PM (#14543141)
      An important thing to remember is that the patent system is supposed to promote innovation. The USPTO's case against NTP so far pretty much demonstrates that Campana wasn't the first person to come up with the "inventions" claimed in his patents. A good synopsis of the evidence can be found on the discussion page of the blackberry entry in wikipedia. Here is an excerpt:

      "During reexaminations, the USPTO built detailed cases against NTP patent claims developed largely from information contained in other U.S. patents. The USPTO found that U.S. patent 5,159,592 by inventor Charles E. Perkins, assigned to IBM, anticipated many claims in the NTP patents and was filed earlier than any of them. NTP has apparently been unable to show to the satisfaction of the USPTO that its inventions were documented or demonstrated before the Perkins patent held by IBM was filed.

      The October 26, 1990, date claimed for ESA's [the prior owner of NTP's patents] demonstration to AT&T could be significant, because the Perkins patent application was filed October 29, 1990. However, according to the Telefind memo, what was demonstrated then was a "wireless modem to download data and messages" and not the more complex system of e-mail processing and routing that is described in the patents under review.

      U.S. patent 5,278,955 deals with e-mail processing and cites an article from 1989 by Richard D. Verjinski entitled, "PHASE, a portable host access system environment," published in an IEEE proceedings. The USPTO found Verjinski's article anticipated many NTP patent claims.

      Besides the Perkins patent and the Verjinski article, the USPTO found several other prior publications describing techniques claimed in NTP patents, including a RIM patent and documents published by Norwegian Telecommunications in 1986 and 1989. For many of the NTP patent claims it now proposes to reject the USPTO cites multiple prior disclosures.

      Until recent years U.S. patent applications were not published. NTP inventors would have been unable to learn about the Perkins patent application when they applied for the first three of the eight patents now being reexamined. However, the Verjinski article was published before any NTP patent application, and the Perkins patent had been published before applications for the last five NTP patents were filed.

      The USPTO has assembled substantial evidence that critical NTP patent claims are invalid. Despite persistent attempts by RIM to intervene in the reexaminations, the USPTO has generally built its own cases without accepting arguments advanced by RIM. So far the USPTO has not explained why the NTP claims now being rejected were instead accepted when the NTP patent applications were originally examined.

      NTP has made some adjustments in response to the USPTO findings but is attempting to justify and maintain most if not all of its claims. If the USPTO follows through with final actions rejecting any claims not conceded or adjusted by NTP, NTP has available to it both administrative and court appeals, likely to take many years."
    • Yes - your post is quite informative and it does illustrate how futile the patent process is. Prior examples of this would include Philo Farnsworth VS RCA.

      If as you state the NTP patents were legit - then we have the issue that there is no justice and the inventor only found a way to waste money on lawyers and legal fees. Often this is the major outcome of a civil case. Theives know this and white collar crime is rampant because they know this. If you take them to court you might win something back - and in the interm they get to use your money to fight against you. If they lose - the have to pay some of that money back to you.

      In the Farnsworth litigation - this would be pretty close to the situation. Farnsworth would have been better off building better products and focusing on marketing. But then - isn't this what Sony is so good at? We have similar patent issues in this area.

      So if it turns out that the NTP patents are in fact valid then we see RIM as the black hat - and they are the ones with the product and the marketing. Thus like Sony and RCA they should be expected to come out as a winner - regardless of the litigation.

      But - are the NTP patents valid? I say they are perfectly obvious. Back before 1985 I was using fido-net systems and there were some running over packet radio. My neighbour across the street ran packet radio back then.

      To send an email over a packetized transmission system is perfectly obvious to _anyone_ who thinks about this for a moment.

      It doesn't even require a practitioner of the field. Even a retard would think of this.

      In slash-dot if we go back there are even stories of packet passenger pigeon systems. Yes - they will work! Does this mean the NTP patents are so obvious they are for the birds? Even a pigeon can do it...

      If there were _something_ innovative in viewing emails over a wireless system then sure - they might have a valid claim. But consider.

      During the 70's I read many articals about how NASA communicated from their deep space probes. The communications were innovative. In some cases they did a fourier transform and spread the bits out in order to lose the noise.

      Do we have something like this here? How a BlackBerry communicates might actually be innovative. That it can communicate is not innovative. Also what a user might choose to send over that communications channel is not innovative.

      A user for instance might call his mom to wish her happy birthday. Should this be subject to a patent restriction? If so - what if he calls his dad. Now calling his wife might be of course since it is common knowledge among all wives that their husbands forget their birthdays. haha!

      That the USA courts upheld this claim illustrates that the court to a large extend is not capable of establishing a fundamental tennant of patent law - that is: the "invention" must actually _BE_ an invention - ie - it must be innovative.

      This also illustrates that the primary effect (if not also its purpose) of a patent is to encourage litigation. This would put the legislation clearly in the area of a restraint on trade - which is what it really is and should be seen as.

      As a restraint on trade it is not much different than what the USA has done in many areas and that includes ignoring the NAFTA agreements in the area of softwood lumber.

      There are many areas this has happened in. With RIM it just turns out that a Canadian company is involved. While this does add more weight to the idea of protectionism in another guise - we are still left with the observation that were RIM an American company - we would still be left with the same issues. Patent law's primary effect is to encourage litigation. This is good for the [legal] business.

      When we look at patent law from this perspective then we have to realise that if we complain to the legal community we will receive lip service at best because everyone in that business knows what this is all about - its about generating fees from clients... big fees. We _also_ have to realise that the legal community includes the pollies.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.