Research In Motion Limited of Waterloo in Canada’s Ontario province has been a beleaguered brand in recent years. RIM’s flagship product, the BlackBerry, was a dominant mobile phone early in the 2000s, but advances to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android system earned both of those manufacturers a greater share of the market. Recently, RIM has been redeveloping its line of products and seeking new markets, especially with the company’s recent unveiling of the Q5, a low-cost device running the BlackBerry 10 operating system that will be available in Latin America, Asia and other emerging markets.
As a developer of mobile communication technologies, RIM is a common name each week at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. IPWatchdog is giving the creator of the BlackBerry a close look this week, covering some of the most interesting USPTO patent applications and patent awards published this month for the company.
Research In Motion’s development of better mobile devices is on display in a number of intriguing documents. One application released recently outlines RIM’s development of a mobile device with a flexible display that can be bent up to 180 degrees. Another patent application discusses new tunable capacitors using microwaves for better radio impedance matching. An official patent awarded to the company this week protects an accelerometer component that improves list scrolling within applications.
RIM is also focused on computer systems design providing user feedback. Two applications that give us a closer look at this research and development involve a custom system of building user word lists for predictive text models, as well as location-specific search engines parameters that a user can set manually.
Research In Motion Limited is an electronics developer based in Waterloo, Ontario, most notable for its BlackBerry cell phone device. Although Research In Motion, sometimes referred to as RIM, has become a much smaller player in the device industry as iPhones and Android devices have stolen substantial marketshare from the hey-day of the BlackBerry, RIM is still involved with the research and development of many communication technologies.
As a part of our ongoing look at high-tech innovators, we periodically look at patents and patent applications to get a sense of what companies are working on in the technology sector. With that in mind, what follows is discussion of several patents and patent applications that caught my attention over the last several weeks.
Something a bit out of the ordinary occurred earlier this month in the ITC investigation Certain Devices for Mobile Data Communication, 337-TA-809. There, Unwired Planet had accused Apple and Research-In-Motion of infringing four patents related to data transmission with cellular phones. A trial before the ITC’s Administrative Law Judge Gildea was scheduled to begin October 15, but shortly before that date, Unwired withdrew its Complaint and filed a motion with the Judge Gildea to terminate the investigation. Unwired’s problem was that the Judge had previously construed the asserted claims to require that the mobile devices do not contain “a computer module,” thereby precluding a finding of infringement by the accused devices that do contain module computers. Unwired, however, has not entirely given up on its infringement allegations against Apple and RIM – rather, Unwired continues to pursue those claims in a parallel infringement action in Delaware.
Unwired’s withdrawal of its Complaint raises several interesting questions. First, could Unwired have continued its ITC case?
In the last decade, a substantial market has begun to develop for contingent fee representation in patent litigation. Wiley Rein — a traditional general practice law firm with hundreds of attorneys practicing all areas of law — represented a small company, NTP, Inc., in its patent infringement lawsuit against Research in Motion, the manufacturer of the Blackberry line of devices. The lawsuit famously settled in 2006 for $612.5 million, and the press reported Wiley Rein received over $200 million because it handled the lawsuit on a contingent fee basis. And Wiley Rein is not alone in doing so. Many patent litigators around the country have migrated toward handling patent cases on a contingent fee basis.
In the past, patent litigation was almost entirely performed on an hourly fee basis rather than on a contingent fee basis. That made sense because patent litigation appeared a poor candidate for contingent representation. Among other reasons, patent cases were expensive to litigate, took years to resolve, and outcomes on liability and damages were considered uncertain and unpredictable. In contrast, personal injury cases are relatively inexpensive to litigate, are adjudicated quicker, and often the liability of the defendant is not seriously disputed.
On January 14, 2010, Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:EK) brought an action at the International Trade Commission (ITC) challenging the importation of certain RIM Blackberry phones and Apple iPhones. Kodak alleged that the importation of the phones violated Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. The predicate for the the alleged Section 337 violation was the infringement of claims 15, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 of United States Patent No. 6,292,218. Yesterday, January 24, 2011, Kodak announced that it has received notice that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the ITC action brought by Kodak against Apple Inc. and Research In Motion Limited had issued an initial determination recommending that the patent claims at issue are invalid and not infringed.
Article One Partners announced yesterday that patents held by NTP Incorporated are the focus of three new requests for research, which Article One Partners refers to as Patent Studies. NTP was made famous for its litigation against BlackBerry maker Research-in-Motion (RIM) that resulted in a settlement north of $600 million. New litigation by NTP has expanded the assertion of patent infringement to other top players in the mobile and smartphone industry, which is prompting Article One Partners to engage their global community of researchers by challenging them to identify evidence predating the patents in question and which can be used to invalidate one or more of the patent claims owned by NTP.
“This is a great opportunity for the public to engage directly in patent review related litigation that influences the use of email on mobile devices,” said Cheryl Milone, CEO of Article One Partners. “We welcome individuals with an interest in the public review of these NTP patents to participate, and potentially be compensated for doing so.”
Whenever I travel I always take my laptop, and thanks to a Verizon USB wireless modem I can stay connected pretty much anywhere, although twice a year when I am in Chicago getting any signal is a challenge. While I am not such a dinosaur that I don’t have a cell phone, I had resisted the Blackberry temptation, at least right up until my cell phone found itself being left in the pocket of a pair of jeans that was then washed. Not surprisingly, that was the end of the useful life for my Motorola Krzr, which had been extremely dependable. So I decided it was time to at least consider a Blackberry, and when I went to Verizon I quickly gravitated to the Blackberry Tour, which is a handsome phone that allegedly offers a lot of functionality. The key being the word “allegedly.” I have since learned from several others that the problems I was experiencing with the Blackberry Tour are not unique, and indeed have been experienced by many. I realize this post is off topic, but attorneys and other professionals who largely make up the IPWatchdog Blog audience have to make up the overwhelming percentage of Blackberry customers, so I thought I would share my experiences, which were not at all good.
Over the weekend both Motorola and Research In Motion sued each other. On Saturday, February 16, 2008, Motorola sued RIM in United States Federal District Court for the District of Delaware, and also filed suit against RIM in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. I wonder if that $432 million plaintiff’s verdict against Boston Scientific had anything to do with Motorola’s decision to file in the Eastern District of Texas? Inquiring minds want to know! In any event, Motorola was not the only one busy filing paper on Saturday. RIM also filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Motorola on Saturday, chosing as their forum the United States Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas.