Wednesday, June 14, 2006

David Long on NTP v. RIM

David Long in the Globe and Mail on NTP v. RIM:

The first lesson Mr. Long shared about his trip through U.S. patent courts is that companies should respond quickly when they receive notices that they have allegedly infringed on someone else's patent. Even though it can cost tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to investigate the claims, ignoring a notice can be deadly, he said. RIM, which makes the BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, told a Virginia court that it had responded to a patent infringement notice from NTP in 2000, but could offer no proof. The omission prompted a jury to conclude that RIM had willfully infringed on NTP's patents, a finding that can add several zeros to any patent award.
[IPBiz agrees that NTP v. RIM teaches the importance of responding quickly to notices of infringement. IPBiz further suggests that the macho approach employed by RIM during the litigation was not the efficient choice.]

The second thing Mr. Long learned is that the U.S. Patent Office is becoming much more efficient. When RIM first asked the agency to re-examine the NTP patents in 2000, it took a "pathetic" two years to review and uphold them. When it reviewed them again this year, Mr. Long said the agency took mere months to reject five of NTP's unusually broad patents, one of which claimed rights to more than 665 software innovations. The rejections came too late for RIM to avoid a settlement, but Mr. Long said they offer "a glimmer of hope" for patent holders at a time when patent trolls are unleashing a torrent of lawsuits. [IPBiz suggests that the USPTO is working quickly on "high profile" re-exams; whether the "fast pace" extends to all re-exams may be questioned.]

His final observation is that the recent push for patent reform in the United States will likely produce change slowly. Within the next two years, he hopes to see new laws that redefine "willful infringement" so that plaintiffs have to show more than a failure to respond to a claim to win a willful infringement judgment. [IPBiz agrees that patent reform will produce change SLOWLY.]


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