One of the more ridiculous patent lawsuits over the last decade (and one that's received enough attention that it may help push through some patent reform) is the NTP-RIM case, that ended up with RIM (a company that successfully developed a mobile email solution) having to pay $612.5 million to NTP (a company that simply bought some very broad patents, most of which were eventually were found to be invalid, from a guy who was unable to build a successful product for the market). After the case ended, the news broke of some pretty clear prior art in the space that had been kept out of the trial. Now, there's another guy who claims to have prior art predating many of the patents in the space. However, rather than get patents, the guy actually built some products -- and he's about to hit the market with the latest version of his mobile email service that will sync with all kinds of email accounts. He seems to relish the idea that any one of those companies with patents would try to sue him for his offering -- since he's got plenty of evidence going pretty far back concerning what he's been working on. What's great here is that this story highlights a few of the points we've tried to make concerning the problems with the patent system. First, with many products, there are many different groups working on similar solutions at around the same time, entirely independently. Giving one a monopoly on that solution is counterproductive to the goal of promoting innovation. Second, you don't need patents if you plan on just competing in the marketplace. This guy didn't rush to the patent office, but he worked on building a product that would satisfy the needs of customers, and know that even though there are bigger players in the market who could "copy" his ideas, he thinks he can stay ahead of the pack by out-innovating them. That doesn't require patents, it just requires knowing your market and continually innovating.
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