The Blackberry Case—An Alternate Ending
October 1, 2006Lawrence S. Ebner
For more than six months I have been ruminating about the BlackBerry patent infringement case and how it could have ended less abruptly and a lot more equitably. I am referring to the litigation that NTP, Inc., a Virginia-based “patent troll” (i.e., company in the business of acquiring and licensing patents rather than practicing them), filed against Research In Motion, Ltd. (“RIM”), the innovative Canadian firm that independently developed and operates the immensely popular BlackBerry® handheld wireless email and data transmission system. The legal proceeding that last winter caused more than three million Americans—including a multitude of federal, state, and local government officials—to worry about suddenly losing their BlackBerry service. The suit that RIM, confronted with (i) anxiety-ridden customers, (ii) an antiquated U.S. patent law,(iii) ruthless plaintiff, (iv) adverse jury verdict, (v)unsympathetic federal judge, and (vi) threat of a permanent njunction against sale and use of BlackBerry devices, agreed to settle in March 2006 for $612.5 million even though the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), upon reexamination,had issued final office actions (or their equivalent) fully and finally rejecting as unpatentable all of the claims upon which NTP’s patents were based.