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Blackberry Businesses Patents The Almighty Buck

BlackBerry Enters New Phase Of Patent Monetization, Sues Internet Telephony Firm Avaya (arstechnica.com) 59

In what can be seen as a turning point for BlackBerry, the Canadian iconic company has filed a patent lawsuit against internet telephony firm Avaya. BlackBerry claims Avaya has infringed eight of its U.S. patents, and that BlackBerry should be paid for its history of innovation going back nearly 20 years. "BlackBerry revolutionized the mobile industry," the company's lawyers said. "BlackBerry... has invented a broad array of new technologies that cover everything from enhanced security and cryptographic techniques, to mobile device user interfaces, to communication servers, and many other areas." From an article on Iam Media: The move comes just over a year since Blackberry announced itself as a major player in the monetisation space with an agreement signed with Cisco, in which the Canadian company not only secured a cross-licensing deal but also "a license fee from Cisco." Another royalty-bearing deal was done with an unnamed company around the same time. Since then, the company has also signed two more deals with Canon and International Game Technology, both of which look to contain a royalties element to them; while in January it emerged that late last year Blackberry had sold a portfolio of patents to investment firm Centerbridge Partners for as much as $50 million. Blackberry CEO John Chen has made clear that he sees the company's patent assets as a key element in his plans. "We have today about 44,000 patents. The good thing about this is that we also have one of the youngest patent portfolios in the entire industry, so monetization of our patents is an important aspect of our turnaround," he told delegates at a summit in Waterloo, Ontario, last September. He was at it again in May during an earnings call with analysts when he stated: "Many people have wanted to buy the patents... But I'm not really in a patent-selling mode, I'm in a patent licensing mode."
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BlackBerry Enters New Phase Of Patent Monetization, Sues Internet Telephony Firm Avaya

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  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @12:48PM (#52651601)

    I don't see the difference between any party that owns patents for anything else than defensive purposes.

    The sole productive use for patents is trolling.

    • I wonder if Canada still has the loophole where patent trolls can abuse litigation simply because they never have to factor the defense attorney costs even if they lose. That loophole (a.k.a. the American Rule) was a major impulsive force for patent trolls' practice, but since 2014 there has been a patent-trolling specific exception created by the Supreme Court, which pretty much denies patent trollers from trolling for cheap (like in Europe, where patent trolling is less common exactl because of the Englis
      • SCORIM's transition into patent troll is the last phase of their downward spiral.

        • Patent cash grabs like this are a last desperate grab before they wanderout to the desert to die. Not entirely unlike Microsofts Mobile strategy.

    • by PincushionMan ( 1312913 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @01:44PM (#52651997)

      The patents in question, if they are proved valid, have far reaching applications. This will be bigger than the SCO Caldera Unix thing ever was.

      • The patents include: [web-copy-pasted From Ars article above]
      • Nos. 9,143,801 [google.com] and 8,964,849 [google.com], relating to "significance maps" for coding video data;
      • No. 8,116,739 [google.com], describing methods of displaying messages;
      • No. 8,886,212 [google.com], describing tracking location of mobile devices;
      • No. 8,688,439 [google.com], relating to speech decoding and compression;
      • No.7,440,561 [google.com], describing integrating wireless phones into a PBX network;
      • No. 8,554,218 [google.com], describing call routing methods; and
      • No. 7,372,961 [google.com], a method of generating a cryptographicpublic key.

      So, how does this impact all of us?

      First, they've already signed a cross licensing deal with Cisco. Cisco's paying them a license fee as well. What does Cisco get out of it? That last patent is against OpenSSL, specifically on the generation of X.509 certificates and certain cryptographic methods. (How? I thought that business methods weren't patent-able?). So, that includes certificate based VPNs, self-signed HTTPS certificates, and things like that found on the router. Since the method of generation appears to be patented, even work-alike implementations, e.g. LibreSSL, are probably in danger of lawsuits. So, for free, Cisco gets to single-handedly raise the cost of home and small business router appliances, and quite-possibly squeeze some of the smaller ones out of business. Not to mention punishing open firmware router implementations at the same time, such as SmoothWall, DD-WRT, and OpenWRT.

      If history serves as any guide, Microsoft will be the next to pony up (Just like they did with SCO Unix). Microsoft would benefit greatly from this agreement. They'll get to squeeze the phone market and the Open Source ecosystem all at the same time. They'll probably cross-license with RIM, and make sure that WinMo is covered. Then they'd go to the phone manufacturers and sell it for less than they'd have to pay RIM for each phone with the infringing OpenSSL bits and Android installed. Google has already shown they've no interest in shielding their partners from patent litigation. RIM and Microsoft will likely start small, with Alcatel and Blu, and work their way up to HTC and Samsung. Similarly, MS will probably ask RIM to provide Linux licenses (which they will pay for their Azure instances), so they can attempt to force Google and Amazon to do the same.

      It's not quite the end of the world though. Linux and open source have beaten overly broad patents before. We may be entering a period of long technological stagnation, while we wait to see what happens with all this.

      • Microsoft may say it loves linux but what it even more loves is money from the victims of its patent trolling:

        http://techrights.org/2016/03/... [techrights.org]

      • by msauve ( 701917 )

        Nos. 9,143,801 [google.com] and 8,964,849 [google.com], relating to "significance maps" for coding video data;

        ...based on Avaya using standard H.265 video encoding in some products.

        No. 8,116,739 [google.com], describing methods of displaying messages;

        Based on displaying messages by thread instead of chronologically. Despite their claim that this was somehow an original idea, this has been done in email almost forever.

        No. 8,886,212 [google.com], describing tracking location of mobile devices;

        Sharing location

      • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @04:51PM (#52653169) Homepage Journal

        > specifically on the generation of X.509 certificates and certain cryptographic methods.

        This one describes a procedure that sounds different to the usual way but is in fact the same.
        You want a random number for a key in a field of order q, q is a prime, so say a 256 bit prime is a prime that fits into 256 bits, but there are 256 bit numbers bigger than q which aren't in the field since 2^256 -1 is not prime. q is not as big as the biggest number you can represent in 256 bits.

        So the obvious thing to is: Repeat { get random number x} until (Hash(x) 2^256); key = H(x);
        The patent says, let's not get a new random number in the loop (RNG's being slow and all). We'll make some more by incrementing x until Hash(x) 2^256.
        I.E. get random number x; Repeat {x++} until (Hash(x) 2^256); key = H(x);

        However the x++; output H(x) is a pretty normal PRNG structure. An RNG typically contains an entropy source to seed a PRNG which then interates a counter and hashes or encrypts the counter, to extend the single seed to many random numbers.

        So the patented solution is no different to the normal procedure, pulling from an RNG that contains a PRNG, like for example, a standard SP800-90 RNG or an X9.82 RNG or any of the other relevant standards.

        CTR mode has been around a long time. So has the hash version.

        Putting this type of patent into the ring in a court fight risks someone putting in the effort to find prior art and invalidating it. It's much easier to license it and get money without a court fight and risking losing the patent.

    • if anything, BBY owes them everything for creating a variant on a telephone! Avaya was a spinoff of post-divestiture Bell System company Western Electric, and a direct descendant of the first telephone.

  • RIP Blackberry... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @12:49PM (#52651607)
    The iconic Blackberry has now become a patent troll. Sad.
    • Re:RIP Blackberry... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @01:14PM (#52651771) Journal

      They are at Stage 7:

      1. Rapid Growth
      2. Monopolization
      3. Monopoly cash-cow cruse-mode
      4. Changes make you irrelevant
      5. Try to change, but lost competitive edge
      6. Milk locked-in customers for every last dime
      7. Sue everything and everyone for money
      8. Shrink to nothing
      9. Borg'ed: get bought out by a conglomerate at a discount

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @01:21PM (#52651821) Journal

      Well, what else were they going to do? The investors allowed Chen to play a sort of bizarre version of fantasy football, except with a real business, instead of just demanding they're money and going home. Now, the company has wasted billions, sold off many of its assets, laid off a large percentage of its R&D staff, and is likely within a couple of years of total financial dissolution. All that's left is to try to keep the ship afloat by strategic lawsuits. Soon, once those don't bring the bottom line up, they'll just start madly flailing about, suing big players in the hopes that some of the big fish just buy them off, or buy them outright.

      Blackberry stopped being relevant five years ago. The fact that it even still exists demonstrates the utter stupidity of investors.

      • What are you blathering about? Chen might have business moves that you disagree with but he has not "wasted billions." BlackBerry's cash position has held steady outside of acquisitions such as Good. We'll see what happens with the new Android based DTEK50 phone. It's aimed right at businesses and may well be bought by the boatload given BB's commitment to patching frequency, hardware security, and so on.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          This is how many phones in a row that have "aimed right at businesses and may well be bought by the boatload given BB's commitment to patching, security and yada yada?" Here's a wild prediction from me: The phone will sell terribly, Chen will make some more noises about how software is their future, then they'll make yet another phone that sells terribly.

          Blackberry's reaping what years of sitting on your laurels gets you. They completely failed to act when the iPhone and Android came on the scene and quickl

    • Re:RIP Blackberry... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by speedplane ( 552872 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @01:45PM (#52652005) Homepage

      The iconic Blackberry has now become a patent troll. Sad.

      They're a real company, with real patents, and sued someone in their industry who is infringing. Why is that a troll? How is that not just proper use of the patent system?

      • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @02:10PM (#52652157)

        They're a real company, with real patents, and sued someone in their industry who is infringing. Why is that a troll? How is that not just proper use of the patent system?

        Real companies have real products. Patent trolls have a portfolio of patents and little else.

        • Might binary view of the world you have.

        • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

          Real companies have real products.

          Whatever you think of their hardware business, which does indeed still exist, BBM and BBM clients remain real products [blackberry.com], and provide better message security/traceability (think regulated securities traders) than pretty much anything else out there.

          "Troll" passed from having a particular meaning to being simply a pejorative tossed at any patent owner someone didn't like long ago. From a policy perspective, you're either a practicing entity or not, and Blackberry remains a pr

      • The point is that they have shifted from selling actual products and simply using their patents defensively to protect said products, to using the aforementioned patents themselves as a revenue stream.

      • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @04:19PM (#52652993) Journal

        They're a real company, with real patents, and sued someone in their industry who is infringing. Why is that a troll? How is that not just proper use of the patent system?

        One of the signs of impending death of a tech company is a spate of patent suits. This happens after they are no longer competitive and are trying to milk every source of revenue possible, in order to keep from going under. Out come all the patents - including the "obvious" ones - which they'd never bothered to attempt to enforce before (and thus never had them knocked down). Suits are filed against any company doing anything in the related field, even if it's not really covered by one of their patents, and it's up to those they sue to do the research to show the suit is bogus.

        A stage before that is when management sacrifices the company's future to its current bottom line, by cutting R&D expenses - and thus ending inventions and development of new products. This is typically done in order to line their own pockets by making the stock price jump and their options worth a bundle. Then they cash out and the house of cards collapses on their successors' watch. If their successors can't turn it around you get the scenario above.

        Before that they were competitive because they were still, or had recently, built new stuff that was ahead of the competition. This is where patent suits are appropriate - to keep people from just cloning their work without incurring the expense. But it's also where they're rare, because the company does better (or just did better) by running ahead of the pack, rather than by spending effort tripping the competitors.

    • "Now"? They were suing left and right over things like their thumb wheel back when they were still Lawsuits In Motion. They've been litigation-happy since at least 2003, when they sued Xerox "defensively". They've been on the receiving end of many a patent dispute, too - and more than once lost a case. For a while there was an injunction forbidding them from selling Blackberry models in the US.
  • "do not go gently into that goodnight" - Dylan Thomas
  • by Anonymous Coward

    RIM is just a dead tech company turned patent troll hoping maybe one day if they have enough money from patent harassment they might get lucky and invent something useful again.

    • They're a dead tech company hoping to create some value in their patent portfolio so another company will buy them purely for said portfolio.

  • by scarboni888 ( 1122993 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @12:52PM (#52651625)

    I wish Blackberry would just fold already and go away. It's obviously their only real option and I find this hanging on for no real purpose quite irritating.

    To the BB folks: get a job!

    • You know those scenes in movies where the assassin is holding a pillow over an informants face, and the informant is invariably lashes out for something -- ANYTHING -- to grasp onto for the hope of just one gasp of air?
  • Lol (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob MacDonald ( 3394145 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @12:52PM (#52651627)
    Well considering Avaya developed a bunch of their technology in house, owning the patents, and then bought up a huge share of Nortels IP, I'm not sure blackberry has a leg to stand on here, considering they at no point entered the same market that Avaya and Cisco currently operate in. This is 100% related to BBs relationship with Cisco, who loves to live on the edge of patent infringement, going so far as to name their Voip system indentically to Avaya's This is why patents are mostly bullshit and used to stifle innovation and competition. IMO if you aren't actively exploiting the patents you have, you have no right to sue someone who is.
    • IMO if you aren't actively exploiting the patents you have, you have no right to sue someone who is.

      That isn't the problem here. The problem is that after years and years of selling products (Avaya), along comes patent troll who discovers it. The problem is that it is too late. You can't come in long after the fact, when you should have been protecting your patents from the beginning. If you don't know they are infringing, then it isn't really impacting your business, and you haven't been harmed.

      • The problem is that it is too late. You can't come in long after the fact, when you should have been protecting your patents from the beginning.

        You never know until you try? If they win, then it's worth it for them to do so. Besides, it's not like they have anything better to do now, since they appear to be giving up entirely on making new phones. CEO's gotta make is yacht payments somehow.

      • The problem is that it is too late. You can't come in long after the fact, when you should have been protecting your patents from the beginning.

        This is incorrect. You are confusing patents with trademarks. A trademark must be defended or it may be considered abandoned. There is no such obligation with patents. A patent holder can wait until an infringer is successful, and then spring a lawsuit and injunction on them. There is no penalty for waiting.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          That is incorrect. Laches and equitable estoppel apply to patents, so it can depend upon how long RIM has been aware of the supposed infringement.
      • That isn't the problem here. The problem is that after years and years of selling products (Avaya), along comes patent troll who discovers it. The problem is that it is too late. You can't come in long after the fact, when you should have been protecting your patents from the beginning. If you don't know they are infringing, then it isn't really impacting your business, and you haven't been harmed.

        Actually, it is not too late at all. In this situation, it makes perfect sense for BB to wait until Avaya make money and sue. It is both to test whether their patents work and also to gain free money from doing nothing themselves (sue for damage that Avaya get from selling patent products). That is actually the way patent trolls are using and it is the loophole in patent laws.

  • in other words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @12:54PM (#52651639)

    "We have today about 44,000 patents. The good thing about this is that we also have one of the youngest patent portfolios in the entire industry, so monetization of our patents is an important aspect of our turnaround," he told delegates at a summit in Waterloo, Ontario, last September. He was at it again in May during an earnings call with analysts when he stated: "Many people have wanted to buy the patents... But I'm not really in a patent-selling mode, I'm in a patent licensing mode."

    Translation: Our company is essentially dead in the water with no capability or desire to continue production and innovation, so instead we are going to start seeking rents for cash flow and cutting staff to increase stock price.

  • SCO, Jr. (Score:1, Troll)

    Looks like we have another SCO on our hands.
    DIAF BB
  • Blacksheep (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by cloud.pt ( 3412475 )
    Might as well have titled the article: "Blackberry switches focus from premium tech company to major patent troll", or "How to avoid bankruptcy of a society-contributing company by turning it into a society hazard".
  • "BlackBerry... has invented a broad array of new technologies that cover everything from enhanced security and cryptographic techniques" and don;t forget "will turn your secrets over to the cops at the drop of a hat"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Blackberry is not on that list once...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_top_United_States_patent_recipients

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @01:05PM (#52651709)

    44000 patents in 20 years is 6 patents per day. Fuck you blackberry you're part of the problem.

  • What goes around... (Score:3, Informative)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Friday August 05, 2016 @01:26PM (#52651851)
    Given that Blackberry (RIM) got burned for over $600M by a patent troll [wikipedia.org] I'm not surprised they're on the offensive.
  • When you are thinking to sympathize to Avaya think again. For example "Avaya tried to monopolize maintenance, jury says in $60M verdict" http://www.pcworld.com/article... [pcworld.com]
  • Another dinosaur that refuses to die and tries to wriggle out of the tar pit. Just give him time to struggle and finally croak.

  • In short, a company that had a stranglehold AND a crotch-grab on the mobile market for YEARS, then pissed it away, devolving into utter irrelevancy after bending and spreading for various governments has now decided that, since they're totally and utterly fucked, they may as well try to give the industry that they gave away a big black eye by patent trolling.

    Fuck Blackberry. I can't wait till they go the way of Caldera.

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