Bridge to the 20th Century

by on January 24, 2006 · 4 comments

Occasional co-blogger Solveig Singleton has done good work on patent reform, but I think her latest analysis of the RIM-NTP patent dispute rather misses the mark:

The patent office is likely to declare all of NTP’s patents invalid in its final ruling. While NTP could appeal, this would take quite a while, plenty of time for RIM to finish working out a technical bypass. NTP’s position is getting weaker and weaker.

She’s right that NTP is getting weaker, but the reason is that no matter what the letter of the law says, no judge insane enough to order the shutdown of all BlackBerries. And she’s wrong to imagine that RIM can or will work out a “technical bypass.” The “invention” that NTP has patented is the concept of checking your email wirelessly. (there are a few qualifications to the scope of the patent, but none of them are of much use to RIM) As long as BlackBerries do what they’re designed to do–fetch peoples’ email from a mobile device–they’re infringing NTP’s patent.

I’ve been a disappointed with media coverage of this issue: I think the fact that NTP has patented the idea of wireless email is crucial to a proper understanding of the case. But reporters credulously repeat RIM’s claims tha they have a software workaround to “bridge the patent,” when in fact, a BlackBerry that doesn’t infringe NTP’s patent (i.e. that doesn’t fetch email wirelessly) is called a paper weight.

  • Solveig Singleton

    RIM’s argument (and I do not mean to side with them, necessarily, as they have been rather naughty) is that NTP’s patents contemplate only one-way rather than two-way paging systems. The anonymous work-around blogger claims:

    “The NTP patents have (at the very least) a singular weakness. They are all limited to a one-way (push) email systems. At the time the NTP Patents were filed, two-way pagers had yet to be invented and they were not contemplated by the NTP patents. Hence, NTP’s inventions do not cover a two-way pager or system that would be required to push only the header (not the actual email message) to the pager and enable retrieval of remotely stored email based on a transmission from the pager — One-way pagers cannot transmit anything.”

    In time, all will be revealed. Perhaps I place undue weight on the assurances of the anonymous blogger. Hey, I didn’t catch any spelling errors.

  • Solveig Singleton

    RIM’s argument (and I do not mean to side with them, necessarily, as they have been rather naughty) is that NTP’s patents contemplate only one-way rather than two-way paging systems. The anonymous work-around blogger claims:

    “The NTP patents have (at the very least) a singular weakness. They are all limited to a one-way (push) email systems. At the time the NTP Patents were filed, two-way pagers had yet to be invented and they were not contemplated by the NTP patents. Hence, NTP’s inventions do not cover a two-way pager or system that would be required to push only the header (not the actual email message) to the pager and enable retrieval of remotely stored email based on a transmission from the pager — One-way pagers cannot transmit anything.”

    In time, all will be revealed. Perhaps I place undue weight on the assurances of the anonymous blogger. Hey, I didn’t catch any spelling errors.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Even if RIM’s argument is right, wouldn’t that still mean BlackBerrys wouldn’t be able to recieve emails? Sending and recieving email are conceptually distinct operations. If you have a patent on recieving emails with a mobile device, it doesn’t seem like you’d be able to evade that patent simply by adding sending functionality.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Even if RIM’s argument is right, wouldn’t that still mean BlackBerrys wouldn’t be able to recieve emails? Sending and recieving email are conceptually distinct operations. If you have a patent on recieving emails with a mobile device, it doesn’t seem like you’d be able to evade that patent simply by adding sending functionality.

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