How NTP Kept Wireless Email Prior Art Quiet For $20,000

from the that's-all-it-took? dept

One of the more amazing things as the NTP/RIM patent lawsuit came to a close was the way that NTP's defenders seemed to completely ignore two important aspects of the case: they would not discuss prior art and they absolutely refused to entertain the idea that NTP's patents were on an "obvious" idea. This was even as the US Patent Office was busy invalidating each and every patent -- admitting that they'd made a mistake in granting them in the first place. The NY Times has dug up one of the more interesting hidden elements of the case: the fact that the basic idea of "wireless email" that Thomas Campana patented, and which eventually were the core of NTP's case, had clear prior art in the work of Geoff Goodfellow, who had done work on such ideas a decade before Campana. Goodfellow, however, chose not to patent the concept, echoing things that we've said repeatedly here: "You don't patent the obvious. The way you compete is to build something that is faster, better, cheaper. You don't lock your ideas up in a patent and rest on your laurels." The scary part, though, is that NTP's lawyers were able to effectively silence Goodfellow in the case, paying him $20,000 for a few days of "consulting" work, with part of the deal being that he was prohibited from revealing any info to RIM during the case. So, while they kept the prior art quiet for $20,000, NTP's lawyers walked away with $600 million. Yet, patent system defenders still want to tell us the system works great? On two different accounts this is damning against the patent system. First, it shows prior art. However, more importantly, it shows that someone who was clearly "skilled in the art" found the entire concept to be obvious years before the actual patent was granted. It brings up again the important question of why the patent office refuses to put in place a test for obviousness when the law demands it.

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  1. identicon
    Joe Smith, 17 Apr 2006 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: Ham Radio Did it First

    The innovation is in the orchestration of the base station and the mobile devices so that the base station only transmitted data for a particular mobile device during the short window when the device is actually turned on.

    It takes a lot less power to receive than to send. Power consumption for the base station is almost irrelevant since you can plug it into the power mains. What makes the BlackBerry type devices work is that they are push email where the base network keeps track of where the device is and sends a signal to the device when there is a message. But all of that was conceived in the 1940s with the invention of cellular radio systems (which could not be implemented because of a lack of computers) and the later development of cellular telephones.

    There was nothing new in the Campana patents.

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