PACKET RAT: CrackBerry ruling is just preciousssss

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

While much of America was waiting to see who would wear what for the Oscars, a certain subset of the population had something else entirely on their minds. With a showdown unfolding in court that threatened to cut them off, mobile e-mail users looked with tears at their BlackBerrys and said, 'I can't quit you!'

That obsession was brought to a Hollywood ending on March 3, prompting many an otherwise macho road warrior to get all Brokeback over his wireless e-mail device. 'CrackBerry' addicts collectively unclenched their hands and took in a deep breath when Research In Motion Ltd. reached a settlement with intellectual property raiders NTP, ensuring that the BlackBerry mail service would not be shut down by the courts.

The news was cause for special celebration in the corridors of some federal agencies. U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer had rejected pleas from the Justice Department back in November to give federal BlackBerry users a special exemption from any injunction against the service, a move that had at least one furry federal IT manager hyperventilating over just the thought of e-mail withdrawal.

But after hearing that RIM is coughing up $612 million to end NTP's legal threats, the Rat held his handheld aloft and ran victory laps around the IT operations bunker, singing Queen's 'We Are the Champions.' He then headed out after work with his fellow BlackBerry users to celebrate with a stiff cheese martini.

With the immediate threat out of the way, and more than a half-billion dollars trading hands as a result, the cyberrodent suspects that sticks are being sharpened in various quarters for a follow-up fight. And the Patent and Trademark Office is probably going to have its name written on some of those barbs, even as it's throwing out some of the patents on which NTP based its suit against RIM.
'Maybe it's time to actually start taking money out of the PTO for the general fund,' the Rat said with a smirk to a Commerce colleague still clutching his CrackBerry, 'and start putting some money into actually hiring and retaining patent examiners? Maybe?'

The legal fireworks might not be over, either. Especially as the Supreme Court considers later this year whether someone like NTP'a patent-holding firm that makes no products based on its patents'can legally stop someone who actually makes products covered by the patent from doing so. And if the PTO throws out all of NTP's patents, there's always the chance that RIM might turn around and file its own suit against NTP.

But all that really matters is that the Rat and the thousands of people like him who suffer from e-mail dependency were able to continue to check e-mail throughout the Oscars show, and kibitz with their thumbs over Jon Stewart's performance as host.

Not all of the members of the whiskered one's household were so happy about the guaranteed continued flow of mobile e-mail, however. Mrs. Rat was hoping that NTP's litigation would give her a chance to separate her spouse from his information flow for a while without the need for an intervention. Now, to borrow a title from Oscar winners past, she's looking at many more lost weekends.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com/a>.

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