Will RIM Go Full-On Patent Troll?

from the if-you-can't-innovate,-you-litigate dept

RIM was the defendant in one of the most well known patent troll lawsuits of all time -- the fight against NTP, a company that claimed to have more or less invented wireless email. In the end, even though the USPTO had problems with the patents, RIM ended up settling for $612 million. What most people don't remember, however, is that one of the reasons that RIM got sued in the first place was that the guy behind NTP read an article in the newspaper about RIM suing tons of competitors over its own patents. The company hasn't seemed quite as aggressive about its patents since then -- but perhaps that's going to change. Reuters is reporting that, as RIM has been struggling to compete in the marketplace, it's hired a law firm to help it consider more options and it appears that getting more money from its patents is one of the options being explored. Considering just how "valuable" patents have become lately due to ridiculous disputes and awards, this isn't surprising. But it's pretty sad to see companies increasingly turning to patent trolling and shaking down actual innovators when they can no longer compete in the market.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    apauld (profile), May 1st, 2012 @ 12:44am

    what else does RIM have?

    Not that I would agree with RIM becoming another patent troll, but I have expected it for years. Everything that they have actually produced, in actual usable products, has eventually failed. Their only recourse is to try patent trolling; though, hopefully, they will fail as quickly as the products they have built.

     

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  2.  
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    Beech, May 1st, 2012 @ 1:24am

    How long can this really go on? I mean, mobile computers (phones and tablets specifically) are a HUGE part of the economy; lots of big players making lots of them. How long until these mammoth corporations realize that they are raking in all kinds of money on these products and losing it to laywers? I would have assumed Google, Samsung, Motorola, Razr, Microsoft, Apple, etc. would have lobbyists storming the gates of the Capitol Building by now, demanding less onerous laws.

     

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  3.  
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    Spaceboy (profile), May 1st, 2012 @ 3:27am

    Re:

    RIM is a failing company. Their ship is sinking because they cannot adapt quickly enough. Look what happened when they tried to play catch-up with tablets - they released a tablet that could not access email. That's plain stupid. As their stock price slides into oblivion patent trolling will become more attractive regardless of how much the lawyers get.

     

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  4.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 1st, 2012 @ 3:28am

    It used to be those who could not do, teach.
    Now it seems those who can not do, troll.

     

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  5.  
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    ashley sheridan, May 1st, 2012 @ 3:37am

    rimshot

     

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  6.  
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    Anton (profile), May 1st, 2012 @ 3:41am

    I'm not a fan of patent trolling, actually I find it a terrible practice, but I keep noticing a pattern in these stories, companies that actually do it, are being demonized.

    Is it ethical? No, but then again what corporation is ethical. The problem is not companies that abuse the system, but the system itself that allows to be abused. Corporations are not human beings, they do not hold the concept of ethics, but the concept of profitability. If the system allows to be exploited in such stupid ways, we can't just expect companies to stop suing each other out of the kindness of their hearts. While there are some noble efforts (twitter as a recent example), ultimately they are meaningless.

    Something major would have to happen to shake things up, so we can even start moving towards reforming the patent system, RIM lawsuits however aren't it.

     

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  7.  
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    Spaceboy (profile), May 1st, 2012 @ 3:44am

    Re:

    A corporation that has no ethics should be demonized. Also, I'd throw in Satanized for good measure.

     

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  8.  
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    John Doe, May 1st, 2012 @ 5:07am

    I thought it was funny that RIM lost that lawsuit

    Ok, I admit it, I thought it was funny that RIM lost that lawsuit. But that was before I found Tech Dirt and educated myself on what is going on in the world of patents and copyright. Now I have reversed my position and feel that the world would be better off without either patents or copyright. Or at least scaled way, way, way back. I hope RIM doesn't go down that path but since they see how much it cost them, the lure of the almighty dollar will probably be to great to resist.

     

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  9.  
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    John Doe, May 1st, 2012 @ 5:15am

    Re:

    Corporations are not human beings, they do not hold the concept of ethics, but the concept of profitability

    Do you have an MBA because I think they teach this in the MBA programs. Corporations are just paperwork, but they are run by people and therefore should be held to an ethical, moral standard. Saying the "company did it" is just a convenient way for people to check their morals at the door.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2012 @ 5:18am

    Re:

    Anton, first off, RIM (and other corporations) are in business to make money for their investors, in any (legal) way they can. If they cannot make money as a practicing entity, making phones and such, then perhaps they can do better taking part of their patents and recovering the unpaid license fees and trying to stop the unwanted use of them in other devices. It's not evil (companies have no souls, and thus cannot be evil in any way), it's just a bottom line business move.

    To be fair, what Mike doesn't mention is that the lawyers may also be there to package up the patents, working out a cross licensing arrangement, preparing them for sale to another company (hello Google!). He draws the conclusion of patent trolling, it's not a foregone conclusion yet.

    Further, what Mike doesn't talk about is that these patents only have a certain life, and they are gone. Soon enough, all of the patents in wireless will be expired, and the supposed patent thicket he goes on and on about in different posts will drop and all will be perfect and peachy. Some of those patents have already expired, and others are already well into their second decade. While 20 years may seem like a long time (especially if you are only in your 20s) but really, it's not a long time in the grand scheme of things. Whatever restrictions that exist will drop away, and life goes on. The period of patent is short when compared to the period of non patent (less than 20 years, versus infinity going forward). It's just not as big a deal as Mike makes it out to be.

     

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  11.  
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    John Doe, May 1st, 2012 @ 5:37am

    Re: Re:

    While 20 years may seem like a long time (especially if you are only in your 20s) but really, it's not a long time in the grand scheme of things.

    It is an eternity in the tech sector. Just look how far the internet, smartphones and tablets have come in 20 years. Patents create a monopoly on technology that could be benefiting society now. If we had to wait for 20 years we would still be using flip phones. Instead, I have a phone that can make calls, email, text, internet, video, photographs, maps & navigation, etc. Somewhere here, there was an article about how many patents a smartphone has and I can guarantee that not every mfg is paying for every possible patent. If they did, a phone would be $1,000 or more and wouldn't have near the technology they have. Would you really say that is a better situation than the one we have today?

     

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  12.  
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    teka, May 1st, 2012 @ 5:57am

    Re: Re:

    recovering the unpaid license fees


    It is almost like you are reading out of the patent-troll playbook.

    "recovering the unpaid license fees" for something that they did not actually create, market or sell might be profitable but it is not right. And more and more this kind of action weakens the framework they lean on to pull off these stunts.

    Even if there were no more patents that claim to cover smartphones (and/or handheld computer devices and/or computerized phone tablet devices and/or anything not yet invented) issued starting Today we would still be looking at a mess of cross-suits and patents claiming to cover the idea of pressing a button to input a number for the next 20 years.

    20 more years of lawyers being paid instead of actual engineers, of money being moved from companies that are successful to companies that are failures.

    The period of patent is short when compared to the period of non patent (less than 20 years, versus infinity going forward).


    golly, you are something special.
    Let me take that absurd reduction even farther! 20 years compared to infinity is nothing, so lets just end all of these patents now. I mean, it is just not a big deal, right?

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2012 @ 7:00am

    Re: Re:

    NOTHING is as big a deal as Mike makes it out to be. He's the Drama Pirate King.

     

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  14.  
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    RD, May 1st, 2012 @ 7:03am

    "While 20 years may seem like a long time (especially if you are only in your 20s) but really, it's not a long time in the grand scheme of things."
    nti
    The Internet (the web as we know it) is not even 20 years old NOW. Look at all that has come from the web since 1994-ish and now imagine all of that innovation and growth locked up behind patents until 2-3 years FROM NOW.

    Try to get some perspective on these things before posting something so absurd and foolish.

     

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  15.  
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    ashley sheridan, May 1st, 2012 @ 7:36am

    He's the Drama Pirate King.

    Wait, you mean he's pirating our drama? Stop him now, someone!

     

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  16.  
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    UnSub, May 1st, 2012 @ 9:00am

    If at first you don't succeed, sue sue sue!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2012 @ 9:32am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "It is an eternity in the tech sector. Just look how far the internet, smartphones and tablets have come in 20 years. Patents create a monopoly on technology that could be benefiting society now. "

    Can't see the forest for the trees? How can we come this far in 20 years if patents are so abusive?

    You have a contradiction you need to clear up - either we are progressing rapidly, or patents are blocking everything. Which one is supported by reality, what is in plain sight, and what you have just stated yourself?

     

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  18.  
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    John Doe, May 1st, 2012 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    There is no way to know what we would have now if billions of $$ weren't wasted on patent lawsuits. Most likely, we would be further along the technology path but we will never know. So the contradiction is yours.

     

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  19.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 1st, 2012 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    How can we come this far in 20 years if patents are so abusive?


    Because this extreme abuse of the patent system is a very recent thing in the tech sector. Just a few years ago, it wasn't common practice, and 20 years ago it was almost unheard of.

     

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  20.  
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    Stuart Gray, May 1st, 2012 @ 11:25am

    So....

    When do we get to kill the lawyers?

     

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  21.  
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    apauld (profile), May 1st, 2012 @ 1:59pm

    Re: So....

    When do we get to kill the lawyers?

    I thought we had that penciled in for this Friday, 3pm (EST).

     

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  22.  
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    Shmerl, May 1st, 2012 @ 2:54pm

    Re:

    > Is it ethical? No, but then again what corporation is
    > ethical. The problem is not companies that abuse the
    > system, but the system itself that allows to be abused.
    > Corporations are not human beings, they do not hold the
    > concept of ethics

    I keep seeing this idea around once in a while. It is seriously wrong though.

    Firstly, if the system is broken, those who abuse it still bear moral responsibility. One can't argue that if most around are crooks, it's OK to be a crook too.

    Secondly, concept of ethics applies to corporations fully. Corporations consist of people, they have leaders, and etc. Not unlike countries and governments, corporations make decisions and execute them. There are those who are in charge, those who implement and etc. All these together can be judged on ethical grounds, the same way like can potentially blame a government and its executioners for being corrupt, for engaging in some atrocities and so on, one can blame a corporation for engaging in unethical protection racket practices, such as patent trolling.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2012 @ 11:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I cannot see that.

    What Mike doesn't show you in the whole discussion is the amount of money paid in licensing fees, and how that money goes back into the system to further promote the businesses.

    Billions aren't wasted on patent lawsuits - where do you get that number?

     

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  24.  
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    patent litigation, May 19th, 2012 @ 2:15pm

    what's wrong with monetization?

    Patent monetization is not the same thing as being a "patent troll." Look at Apple, for instance -- the company successfully monetizes and innovate. The two are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps monetization will even help RIM fund its R&D for new innovations.

     

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  25.  
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    staff, May 25th, 2012 @ 6:51am

    another biased article

    “Patent troll”

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay or stop”. This is just dissembling by large infringers and their paid puppets to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft. The fact is, many of the large multinationals who defame inventors in this way themselves make no products in the US or create any American jobs and it is their continued blatant theft which makes it impossible for the true creators to do so.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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