Even if you just have a passing interest in the topic of patents, you've probably heard of the RIM-NTP case. That's where NTP, a company that ended up with some excessively broad and obvious patents after the inventor was unable to build a product anyone actually wanted to buy, sued RIM, the makers of the wildly successful Blackberry device, claiming patent infringement. The attention the case got caused the US Patent Office to look closely at the patents, and very publicly state that it was rejecting
NTP's patents, as they never should have been issued in the first place. However, rather than waiting for the official patent review process to work itself out, the judge in the case pressured the two sides to settle, forcing RIM to cough up $612.5 million
for no good reason. It never made sense that the judge refused to wait for the Patent Office to finish its review -- especially since the office had been so public in questioning the validity of the patents.
NTP took its winnings and immediately started looking for others to sue while the patents were still valid. It started with Palm, makers of the Treo. However, in that case, the judge realized what was going on and put the case on hold
until the USPTO could make a final decision on the validity of the patents. Not willing to standstill, NTP sued
all the national US mobile operators (Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile) for selling devices like the Blackberry and the Treo. Once again, though, it looks as though a judge realizes that it's ridiculous for such a case to go forward when the USPTO has expressed so much skepticism towards the patents. Against Monopoly
lets us know that the judge for the Sprint, Verizon and AT&T case has also put the case on hold
until the USPTO is done. What no one wants to explain, however, is why RIM wasn't afforded the same opportunity?