Friday, 11 November 2005

If you didn't notice, Research in Motion - the wildly successful and smart company that created and sells BlackBerry devices and the services they run on - has been the subject of great debate recently, due to a patent conflict that's working it's way through the U.S. courts. In a nutshell, there's this other company that claims they own the rights to the concepts that the BlackBerry devices run on. RIM says not so.

People have been all but freaking out every time a news article comes out that suggests the patent dispute could cause BlackBerry services in the U.S. to be shut down. Anyone who reads the court decisions and can follow the parallel court cases can tell that the likelihood of this is very low. But hey, "news" is just acting like it's old typical self (meaning hyperbole and emotional button pushing). The patents claimed by RIM's opponent (a company called NTP) have been challenged and practically invalidated. But since that's happening in another court, I guess the news services just selectively choose what to report on.

Anyhow - What I think is the most interesting event to come out of the recent news, though, is the fact that the U.S. Government's Department of Justice has made an argument in the courts that the RIM/Blackberry services are necessary as a matter of national security. As it turns out, their highly-secure infrastructure and right-now capabilities of the network and servers has become a critical piece of how many government employees and agencies communicate.

The government department wants 90 days notice before a U.S. trial court enforces the potentially crippling injunction on BlackBerry devices in the United States to ensure public workers can keep using the devices, which many users call "CrackBerrys" for their addictive nature.

Lance Johnson, an intellectual property lawyer in Washington, D.C., said the filing is good news for RIM.

"This really throws a wrench into things [for NTP]," Mr. Johnson said. "It brings to this [legal] forum a national-security and government-functioning imperative that was not there before."

The U.S. government also said the extra time is necessary so the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can reconsider the validity of wireless e-mail patents held by NTP. The Patent Office has already overturned the five disputed patents filed by since-deceased inventor Thomas Campana Jr., although NTP has asked the patent office to reconsider its decision.

If the patents are overturned, the four-year-old court case would be rendered moot, legal experts say.

The real test of technology success today is acceptance and dependence, let's face it. And RIM has put together a quality service and set of infrastructure and devices over the past several years. You want to know how hard RIM is to knock over? Pretty hard, I'd say. A little more coverage is available here.

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Friday, 11 November 2005 07:19:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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