Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blackberry/NTP Patent Lawsuit: Technology Scaremongering

I don't often blog about work, but today is one exception. As the IT director at my company, I am responsible for technology selection for over a thousand computer users, and over the past two years, under my direction, the company has invested heavily into Blackberry technology (handhelds, Blackberry Enterprise Server, etc.), which our users love.

Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of the Blackberry handheld, have been embroiled in a patent lawsuit with a smaller company called NTP since 2001. Earlier this week, the litigation seems to have come to a head, as the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case, leaving RIM open to an injunction from a trial judge that may potentially shut down the service in the US.

I have been watching the lawsuit closely, and have made the conscious decision to continue investing in Blackberry technology. For me, Blackberry technology is the best out there, and the benefit of using Blackberry technology far outweighs the risk.

The email below is a broadcast email I sent today to my entire company explaining my position on the issue:

01/26/2006 03:01 PM
To: All Employees
Subject: Blackberry Legal Woes

As many of you may have heard, Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind the Blackberry handhelds many of us use, is presently involved in a patent dispute in US federal court with a company called NTP. NTP claims that Research in Motion is infringing on five of its patents, while RIM is disputing the validity of the patents. Some news media and pundits have raised the spectre of the Blackberry service being shut down as part of this legal action. These concerns were amplified by this week's refusal of the US Supreme Court to hear RIM's appeal of a lower-court ruling, leaving RIM open to an injunction by a trial judge.

We in the Information Technology department have been closely following this litigation and feel the business risk of the Blackberry being shut down is relatively small. The company suing Research in Motion is a small patent-holding company called NTP. NTP does not make a competing technology platform, and is only looking for royalty payments from RIM's US revenue. The threat of a court injunction shutting down Blackberry is something we view as legal posturing - a method by NTP to compel Research in Motion to pay NTP the royalties it feels it is owed.

While there are other technologies for wireless remote email access, Blackberry's technology is the best on the market. As such, we are continuing to invest in and deploy Blackberry technology here. In the unlikely event that Blackberry's service is shut down by a court injunction, we anticipate such a shutdown would be very brief, as it is in neither NTP's nor RIM's interest for any such interruption to remain in effect on the long term. It is also important to keep in mind that Blackberry technology is used extensively by many US federal and state government agencies, police departments, fire departments, ambulance services, and as such there would be a great deal of impetus on NTP, RIM, and the courts to quickly resolve any legally imposed interruption

We expect the RIM and NTP dispute to be ongoing for some time, however in the end we expect the issue to be resolved without an interruption of service.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Blackberry/NTP lawsuit or our continued use of Blackberry technology, please feel free to contact us.

Best regards,
IT Department.