Saturday, January 28, 2006

Globe and Mail on RIM/NTP/Blackberry

The article notes that RIM blew-off NTP's initial warnings:

Without a target, or a lawsuit, NTP lacked leverage. And according to later court transcripts, RIM apparently didn't take the threat very seriously. NTP said RIM ignored the letter. The Canadian company countered that an internal review concluded it wasn't infringing on NTP's patents. RIM officials insisted they told NTP that. But RIM couldn't produce any evidence at trial that it had ever acknowledged NTP's inquiries — one in a series of costly mistakes that would later turn the judge and the jury against the company.

If RIM didn't think much of NTP's Jan. 27, 2000, letter, the formal notice in November, 2001, that NTP had filed an infringement case in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sure got its attention. It prompted a terse RIM news release — the first hint to outsiders of the battle to come. A defiant RIM said the infringement claim was “unsubstantiated” and dismissively characterized NTP's earlier licensing demand as “a collection of seemingly random marketing materials printed from RIM's website.”


RIM apparently couldn't look far enough into the future to see the train wreck ahead. Going after the maker of the BlackBerry was a stroke of legal genius. Until zeroing in on RIM, Mr. Stout and Mr. Campana didn't have a prayer of persuading a reputable law firm to litigate the case, particularly on a contingency basis (where lawyers get expenses and nothing else unless they win). But finding a law firm to pursue the maker of the Blackberry — a favourite toy of young lawyers — proved a relatively easy sell. NTP quickly hooked up with James Wallace of Wiley Rein & Fielding, a Washington intellectual property lawyer who conveniently happened to be between big cases. Some of his associates were avid BlackBerry users.

The die was cast. Unless RIM quickly conceded something to NTP — admit infringement and pay a licensing fee — it would be in for a protracted legal fight and an inherently risky trial.

**The article discusses the attitude of RIM toward NTP:

True to form, RIM's entrepreneurial bosses stood their ground. They regarded NTP as a vile patent “troll” — a company with dormant patents that preys on successful technology companies to extort fees from a hot-selling product.

Settlement is lawyer-speak. And the RIM and NTP saga isn't just about lawyers. It's also about two proud and determined inventors, and a growing pile of cash.

**Ill-fated battle of wills?

The lives of Mr. Campana and RIM founder Mr. Lazaridis are almost like bookends: Two working-class kids whose early tinkering with computers drew them into a life of invention and a passion for wireless gadgets. And yet their common bond — a drive to make a mark as innovators — is also what would turn a routine legal dispute into an ill-fated battle of wills. One of them wouldn't live to see the dramatic climax.

Mr. Lazaridis and Mr. Campana were born nearly a decade apart, but they had a lot in common. They grew up on the Great Lakes, 500 kilometres apart, one in Windsor, Ont., and the other on the south side of Chicago. They lived in working-class homes and would spend hours in their basements building gadgets. Working in isolation, they quickly developed a fascination and a passion for wireless technology.


“There's a tremendous amount of innovation and hard work that goes into taking an idea and realizing it and then making it into a product,” Mr. Lazaridis says defiantly. “There are 16 million lines of code in BlackBerry. Sixteen million. It's hard to imagine 16 million lines of code. They all have to work in harmony and perfection to make this thing do its job. Are you trying to tell me that one little concept is more important than another little concept, and that it didn't take man-years and man-years of effort to make all that stuff work?”


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