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RIM Sues Handspring for Patent Infringment

Research In Motion, maker of the Blackberry, has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Handspring. The suit claims that the keyboard on most Treo models violates a RIM patent, though no details are available at their point on exactly what about the Treo's keyboard RIM is complaining about. The company has patented every aspect of the Blackberry that it can and even holds a patent on the crescent shape that the keys are arranged in. A statement released by RIM late yesterday did not disclose what damages it is seeking.

RIM has been quite busy lately suing its competitors for patent infringement, though most of the suits have been against Good Technology, a company that is close to releasing a wireless device very similar to the Blackberry.

It just filed another suit against today, alleging Good "engaged in misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, tortious interference with contracts and prospective economic relations, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and civil conspiracy."

Thanks to alex_mathews for the tip. -Ed

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Suits them right

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 10:23:50 AM #
... for not complaining openly (like everyone should) about the DELIRIOUS patent law in the US.

Granting patents on such obvious concepts as "if the device is small, then uset a small keyboard" will kill innovation shortly, and make it impossible to design anything unless you are a megacorp -- of the kind so favored by your president Bush -- with megabucks to smother these issues away.

RE: Suits them right
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 10:44:34 AM #
Wow! It's amazing how little some people understand business. Yes, RIM is bigger than Handspring (~740M vs. ~140M market cap), but they are by no means a "megacorp". But patents work both ways... it allows the little guy the protection from the big boys, and keeps the little guys from stealing the big boys stuff. A small company needs to patent its ideas to keep a big company from duplicating the idea and marketing it with its larger resources. But if a larger company that holds a patent doesn't enforce the patent, then all the R&D that went into the patentable design has been wasted, and shareholders like me get cheated. That's not to say the the patent process isn't flawed... it is. There are patents issued every day that shouldn't be, and there are ideas thought up by inventors every day that don't get patents because of the arduous process and cost involved. But most infringement cases end up in a settlement that is equitable to both parties.

Also, please cite examples of "our president Bush" favoring large businesses, other than in his personal preferences of past employment. Many of us work for large companies... is that wrong? And don't bother with Enron... the market punished them severely well before the government got involved.

Why blame Bush?
JonAcheson @ 9/19/2002 10:48:00 AM #
The problem of the patent system totally breaking down with regards to software mainly came about under the previous administration, though to some extent it began in the 80's (under Bush 41?). Bush should do something about it, but something tells me he's been preoccupied for about a year or so.

"All opinions posted are my own, and not those of my employers, who are appalled."
RE: Suits them right
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 10:49:33 AM #
"and make it impossible to design anything unless you are a megacorp"

RIM is a "megacorp"?

RE: Suits them right
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:07:42 AM #
The bigger issue is that large companies are patenting or trademarking every day things. You have to get permission from Palm to use the word Palm. Writting on the screen of a handheld any way other than the english proper you have to get permission from Xerox. Even Pennzoil owns the term "quick lube" (don't ask why I know this.).
Where would we be today if the developer of the phone key pad had a patent and didn't let anyone else use it? How about a patent on four wheel devices used for moving humans?

RE: Suits them right
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:09:15 AM #
RIM might not be a megacorp, though $140 Million can afford a few lawyers. The point is, i believe, patents for obvious concepts will only favor large corporations in the long run - if at all -, and will certainly hinder innovation tremendously.
RE: Suits them right
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:16:36 AM #
If RIM is not a megacorp, it will itself be bitten hard by patent law sooner rather then later.
RE: Suits them right
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:42:10 AM #
"impossible to design anything unless you are a megacorp -- of the kind so favored by your president Bush -- with megabucks to smother these issues away."

Wow, we've progressed. I remember the days when Reagan use to get blamed for everything.

Just remember, all of the Enron hootenanny happened during Clinton's watch. Not to mention the nuke info China now has thanks to Uncle Bill.

Please stay off your political viewpoints in the open forums.

Regan, WRONG!
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 12:01:55 PM #
If I remember correctly and I do, the first software patent which patented XOR'ing bits (Cadtrak's famous xor cursor patent. [#4,197,590] go to www.uspto.gov to look at it) was under the Carter administration since it was filed in 1978 and granted on April 8, 1980 which was months prior to Regan's election. Get your dates right.

Completly OT, but anyway ...
Token User @ 9/19/2002 12:04:28 PM #
Where would we be today if the developer of the phone key pad had a patent and didn't let anyone else use it? How about a patent on four wheel devices used for moving humans?

New phone from Motorola with the phone keypad arranged like the old rotary dial job. Are they going to patent they new layout?

Why do numeric keypads on calculators, and keyboards go one way and keys on a telephone keypad go another?

Those four wheel devices ... a majority of the technology behind them is held by two international companies. A small German company called "Daimler", and a Detroit company called "Ford" ... but at least they are pretty good about sharing ideas.

RE: Suits them right
LarryGarfield @ 9/19/2002 12:30:46 PM #
If I may completely ignore the political thread...

But patents work both ways... it allows the little guy the protection from the big boys, and keeps the little guys from stealing the big boys stuff.

With one key problem. There is a fairly large cost to filing a patent. Bigger companies can afford to, an individual simply can't afford to apply for a patent. And enforcing a patent is even more expensive. It takes over $1 million to successfully argue a patent law case, and there's no guarantee that you can win. Then, of course, larger companies can afford more lawyers, and the way our court system is structured, whoever can afford the most laywers wins the case 95% of the time. And that's the same regardless of if you're the plaintiff or the defendant.

Yeah, patents are SUPPOSED to protect the little guy from the big guy as well as the big guy from the little guy. In theory. In reality, they serve only for one company to beat another over the head until one of them goes bankrupt. As long as that's the case, all patent infringement cases are frivolous.

(I'm not suggesting we abolish the patent system, it's useful. Just like copyrights are useful, when used apprpriately. Both have been bastardized into completely destructive forces in the last few decades, however.)

--
This post is ROT26 encrypted. Reading it is a violation of the DMCA

I hate patents

big_raji @ 9/19/2002 10:30:14 AM #
Yeah, yeah, I know patents are there to protect people's ideas and investments, but for crying out loud, it's a keyboard.

RIM sure wasn't the first one to put a keyboard on a small electronic device. My Sharp organizer from 1989 had that.


---
What's Wrong With This Picture?
http://raj.phangureh.com/picture.html

RE: I hate patents
madhatter @ 9/19/2002 10:48:45 AM #
We should change the law that loser has to pay the winner all the costs of the trial.. let's see if everyone is so suit happy if there is some penalty if you lose.



A Palm in hand is worth two in your pocket.

RE: I hate patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 10:51:32 AM #
If the loser has to pay, it would make it even harder for the little guy/small business inventor, since big companies will usually win with all the $$$ and laywers they can throw at a case.
RE: I hate patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 10:58:16 AM #
When large amounts of money are at stake, you can always find a shark... uh, lawyer... willing to take the case on spec. I agree... the "loser pays" approach would go a long way to bringing a bit of sanity back to the civil courts in this country.
RE: I hate patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:04:13 AM #
Well, first it was the Xerox vrs. Palm regarding grafitti, now Blackberry vrs. Handspring about the Treos keboard...

Now Im wondering... should we wait until whe have telepathic PDAs to stop worring about input systems patents or is that already taken? Maybe Uri Geller has it...

amflores

RE: I hate patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:07:20 AM #

I think plantif-pays-if-they-loose is better than
looser-pays. Otherwise there would be a strong
incentive for small defentants to settle on the
off chance that they wouild loose against a big
corp with lots of good, expensive lawyers, *even*
if the case is weak. I.e. when the chances of loosing
are low, but the cost is extremly high. This is why
so many people play the lottery when the jackpot gets
high. And sometimes one side wins because they have
better lawyers, not a better case.

As for this case, there is very little for us to make
any kind of judgement or opinion. And public opinion
can be wrong, even if it overwhelming. The evidence
really needs to heard in total and in the court.

Not that can or should prevent one from forming an
opinion, but I, for one, will wait until there are
more details.


RE: I hate patents
madhatter @ 9/19/2002 11:15:33 AM #
"If the loser has to pay, it would make it even harder for the little guy/small business inventor..."

It is already tough for the little guy. The large corporations are filing the suits against the little guy to put him out of business. Loser pay would even the playing field. It would also lessen the use of "litigation blackmail" for worthless lawsuits. Everything from fraudulent malpractice suits which drive up your health costs to stomping on small business with hugh law suits to force him out of business.

The only person who wins the law suit is the attorney's who file and defend them. Look at most class action law suits. the individuals usually receive pennies, while the attorney who filed receives millions.

A Palm in hand is worth two in your pocket.

RE: I hate patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:29:55 AM #
The law on patents ought to come down to the amount of research put into them. For example, Edison spent a great deal of time researching which type of filament would work in a light bulb. RIM might have spent a great deal of time/money researching the proper texture and layout of keys for their keyboard. If that is true, then they ought to be able to protect their investment in the design. If they're just patenting the idea of sticking a small qwerty keyboard on a mobile messaging device, then that is absurd.

The simple act of taking a device like a keyboard, resizing or reshaping it a bit (without seriously researched reasons), and sticking it on another device/object to be used for essentially the same purpose should not be a patent. As another example, a button, a simple device that you click or press on to perform a function. It is well known that an ideal for a person to complete a task is the fewest number of operations possible (like a button press). You don't then stick a button on a web page for a book that lets you buy it in one press and patent that as some kind of invention. Using a clear piece of plastic to protect a screen on a PDA, when we've had Saran Wrap and other clear plastic coverings for decades is not a patent.

RE: I hate patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/20/2002 3:45:32 AM #
"If the loser has to pay, it would make it even harder for the little guy/small business inventor..."

Not really. If loser-pay is put into effect like it is in some other countries, what's to stop the "little guy" in an obvious nuisance case from running out and hiring the most expensive team of 20 lawyers in town? I imagine all of these nuisance suits would come to an end pretty damn quick if the companies who initiate them realized that they could lose a couple hundred thousand dollars in a judgment directly, and then have to tack on another 3 or 4 hundred thousand becuase the "little guy" snapped up a whole law firm for his defense team.....

It would be sort of like playing poker at that point. If the little guy really has a winning hand, he could amass all the firepower in the universe, since the corp will have to cough up when they do lose as expected. And no corp in their right mind would even bother to try a certain loss.

PDABuzz Headline has it right

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:05:11 AM #
The headline over at PDABuzz.com has it right:

"RIM sues everybody."

JBH

RE: PDABuzz Headline has it right
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 11:32:30 AM #
IBM sues Palm over Graffiti. Only other logical alternate method of input is keyboard. Handspring sued. ...
RE: PDABuzz Headline has it right
pauleyc @ 9/19/2002 11:56:56 AM #
Ummm...sorry? IBM sues Palm? Or was it Xerox?

BTW, http://makeashorterlink.com/?K6B5528D1 .

-------
pauleyc

Read the Patents

Moosecat @ 9/19/2002 12:08:54 PM #
These are probably the patents involved: (There may be others.)

http://makeashorterlink.com/?B356528D1

http://makeashorterlink.com/?K566228D1

RE: Read the Patents
Moosecat @ 9/19/2002 12:12:47 PM #
Ooops.. For some reason those links point to different patents now. Anyway, you can go to www.uspto.gov, do a patent search for "research in motion" under the "assignee name" field. You should come up with 45 results. Two of them specifically relate to the keyboard used on RIM devices.

RE: Read the Patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 12:28:52 PM #
One patent covers the technique of accessing "alternate" character sets by scrolling with the thumbwheel while holding down a key.

The other patent covers the curved arrangement of the keyboard and the oval button shape.

RE: Read the Patents
Ed @ 9/19/2002 12:39:05 PM #
> The other patent covers the curved arrangement of the keyboard and the oval
> button shape.

This is the patent that I think this lawsuit is referring to.

---
News Editor

RE: Read the Patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 12:50:01 PM #
> One patent covers the technique of accessing
>"alternate" character sets by scrolling with the
>thumbwheel while holding down a key.

This is ridiculous. Is there a patent for getting a capital letter by pressing "shift" at the same time as the letter? Or for using the CTRL key for ..er.. control sequences?

If patent law had always been as preposterous as it is today, we would need keyboards witn 300 keys ... or maybe those would also be patented ... Hell, pressing a button to get a letter could be patented as well!

What's left?
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 12:51:54 PM #
Now if someone would just patent speech recognition with a handheld, then I could just go back to drawing pictures in the dirt with a stick. Of course, I'm sure that's patented, too.

Just the other day an attorney showed me a patent that someone obtained for swinging sideways in a swing. US Patent 6,368,227 B1. The Abstract of that patent reads, "A method of swing on a swing is disclosed, in which a user positioned on a standard swing suspended by two chains from a substantially horizontal tree branch induces side to side motion by pulling alternatively on one chain and then the other."

I just looked this up on the Patent and Trademark Office website. It's real. Or I should say, it's real sad.

I think there should be consequences for filing frivilous patents, and I think that a patent dealing with the shape of buttons and layout of buttons on a keyboard is purely frivilous.

This suit has no redeaming qualities, and I'll never purchase a RIM product because of it.

JBH

RE: Read the Patents
Moosecat @ 9/19/2002 1:00:23 PM #
Rest assured, I'm sure someone DID patent the idea of pressing a key to make a letter. But patents have a limited lifetime (I believe 20 years now), so that idea passed into the public domain a long time ago.

Also, remember: there is a big difference between having a patent and winning a suit for patent infringement. The defendant in a patent infringement suit has lots of potential defenses, such as that the initial patent is invalid. One basis for invalidity is that the patented idea was obvious.

As a lawyer, it bothers me when people equate filing a suit with winning a suit. You always read about people filing ridiculous suits, but there's never a follow-up about how the lawsuit was dismissed. Or you read about an absurd jury verdict, but you never read about the fact that an appeals court reduced or reversed the judgment.

Here, I doubt anyone here is familiar enough with RIM's patents and the R&D behind them to form a judgment about the merit of this suit. Companies generally don't file totally meritless suits -- it's expensive, distracting, time-consuming, and embarrassing. But, maybe this suit is silly. If so, I trust the courts to dismiss it. Or, maybe Handspring has taken unfair advantage of research worth tens of millions of dollars conduced by RIM. I don't know.

RE: Read the Patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 2:41:03 PM #
Companies seem to file frivolous patent lawsuits against other companies when:

1. they are scared of the competition

2. they desperately need funds

3. they want some attention

4. they no they can outspend the company that they are after.

You ever wonder why Xerox wen after Palm instead of Microsoft? You think RIM would see if the Treo was from Microsoft? I do not think so.

RE: Read the Patents
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 4:58:58 PM #
"As a lawyer, it bothers me when people equate filing a suit with winning a suit."

That would be all well and good if the person being sued didn't have to spend their money on legal expenses to defend these insane suits (not to mention wasting their precious time.)

Filing a suit is certainly different to winning it, but that doesn't mean a wrongful suit is nothing to be concerned about.

RIM's Message to the World...

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/19/2002 3:55:48 PM #
We don't like competition, so we'll sue everyone that has a device that is similar to ours.

What if:

. Coke sued Pepsi for selling a cola?

. McDonald's sued Burger King, Wendy's, etc. because they sell hamburgers?

. Ford sued GM, Chrysler, etc. for mass producing cars?

. Al Gore sued this board for using his idea of the Internet?


Folks, it's not about patents it is about competition. RIM is just plane afraid of competition. Palm didn't sue Handspring, Compaq, HP, Sony, etc. because they made (sometimes better) PDA's. There is no excuse for not wanting to compete. It's the American way (yes, I know RIM is Canadian).

JAM

Infringement

Got Mojo? @ 9/20/2002 9:11:16 AM #
I've just been granted a patent for "sitting on your ass filing lawsuits." My lawyers are notifying RIM that they are infringing.

RE: Infringement
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/20/2002 2:22:25 PM #
Very clever !

an act of desperation in the face of declining economics

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/22/2002 12:34:49 AM #
I haven't seen this idea tossed about, so I'll say something myself.

A sure sign of the impending failure of any business is that business's decision to begin suing everybody. Witness the recording industry. Threatened by the prospect of changing its business model to suit times brought on by new technology, the first instinct of the record labels was to sue everyone (ISPs, colleges, individuals).

RIM faces the potential for as serious a demise. Its wireless network is bases on an old, and increasingly overburdened, paging network.

RIM's Blackberry's have been so successful and generate so much traffic that its network will soon be unable to handle the bandwidth demands placed upon it.

The lawsuits are like the thrashings of an individual drowning, grasping at anything that might help him stay afloat.

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