RIM Pushing For Airlines To Force Mobile Devices Into Flight Mode

from the but-why-a-patent? dept

RIM, who is obviously no stranger to patent troubles (on both sides of patent litigation, it should be remembered), has apparently filed for a patent on a system on airplanes that would force mobile devices into “flight mode” where they wouldn’t interfere with cockpit instruments. While there’s still plenty of debate over how much interference mobile devices really cause on airplanes, this system would allow aircraft crew to set a signal that would force all complying devices to switch into “flight mode,” turning off any potential interference. It would also make the devices flash a green light, so cabin crew can check to make sure the devices are safe. Of course it would be some time before all devices agreed to match any such standard — but that raises another issue: why patent this? If you’re trying to create a standard that everyone will agree to, a patent seems like a waste of time and money. If you’re going to charge a royalty, many device makers will simply decide not to go along with the plan, harming any chance of really making this a standard — and it really only is useful if it’s a standard. If you’re not going to charge a royalty, why patent it? Besides, it would seem like there’s plenty of prior art on this idea as well. The patent application was filed in December of 2004 (following a provisional patent app in May of 2004). However, months earlier we were already talking about a similar system that would silence mobile phones in movie theaters.

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Comments on “RIM Pushing For Airlines To Force Mobile Devices Into Flight Mode”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Standard operating procedure in mobile phone busin

Just because something is patented doesn’t mean it won’t become a standard. In the mobile phone business, all the standards are completely patent-infested. It’s not possible to build a GSM, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS or CDMA compliant phone that doesn’t infringe a truckload of patents owned by Ericcson, Qualcomm, Nokia, etc. These companies have all cross-licensed their patent portfolios with each other, so none of them have to pay any royalties to each other. But RIM is a relative newcomer so it has to pay lots of licensing fees for every device it manufactures. I’m sure RIM would love to get a patent on something that became a standard. If RIM can get enough of these fundamental patents, it could maybe eventually enter into cross-licensing agreements with the other big boys, which would greatly reduce the cost of manufacturing a blackberry.

Rob says:

Re: Standard operating procedure in mobile phone b

Well if they patent it, then they can allow others to use the standard for free. If someone else patents it then that company might decide to require payments in order to use the standard and then it will never get implemented.

It’s just like how Linus holds the rights to “Linux” and therefore everyone can use it, but if Microsoft held the rights to “Linux” then no one could. The holder of the rights can choose to give them away.

Steve Mueller (user link) says:

Why Patent?

As others have implied, you may want to patent something even if you never intend to charge for the patent. It gives you ammunition when trying to negotiate patent cross-licensing deals. If the company just made the item public domain, anybody would be free to use it without any compensation to RIM (compensation can be patent exchanges).

When I worked at IBM, they had (at least) a two-tiered intellectual property system. Things they thought were really valuable would be patented. Things they thought were less valuable would be published in a technical disclosure magazine, presumably to easily establish prior art.

I got a software patent when I worked there, so I got to see some of the process necessary to get a patent. It was so complicated that I can see why they might just disclose some items that they thought wouldn’t justify the work necessary to get a patent.

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