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By GCN Staff

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The latest jab at BlackBerry

Is it just us, or has news this week that BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is subject to a fresh patent lawsuit caused nary a stir? In light of all the hand-wringing prompted by NTP Inc.'s assault on RIM, we thought this most recent case might raise at least a few eyebrows. (NTP and RIM settled their differences in March, with RIM paying NTP more than $600 million.)

But the fact that Visto Corp. of Redwood Shores, Calif., recently filed suit against RIM doesn't seem that interesting right now. The news slipped out of rotation on most Web sites almost as soon as it appeared. Maybe it's because we're all weary. Maybe it's because you need a scorecard to keep track of Visto's suits. The company has gone after RIM, and Microsoft, and Good Technology, and others.

In this case, Visto was emboldened by a small victory over Seven Networks, a wireless e-mail provider based in Redwood City, Calif. In that case, a jury in federal court in eastern Texas awarded Visto $3.6 million in damages. Visto said the jury "overwhelmingly found in favor of Visto." Seven Networks, while disappointed and seeking relief from the Patent and Trademark Office, noted the jury tossed out most of Visto's claims.

Immediately, though, Visto seized on its win and turned on RIM.

In a statement, Visto CEO Brian Bogosian said the "sweeping decision against Seven Networks validates our claims that Visto's intellectual property serves as the basis for this industry's birth. There was no ambiguity in the jury's decision. Likewise we believe that RIM's infringement of Visto's technology will be halted. Our case against RIM is based on similar technology, law and patents as the case we have just won in federal court against Seven Networks."

GCN dropped a note to John Friend, CTO of Good Technology. Good makes a wireless messaging platform similar to RIM's. And like RIM, Good is in Visto's crosshairs.

While Friend couldn't get into legal specifics, he wrote back, "My views on patent litigation in general have not changed'and I would agree with my counterparts from RIM that the U.S. patent system is in need of some significant change if it wants to continue to serve the country's best interests, though that is something that could happen in the long term and won't affect this case."

'Good wants to focus as much of our energy as we can on driving innovation for the customer and we've consistently made decisions in the past to optimize for that,' Friend wrote. 'Visto has clearly taken a different approach and they've now sued almost every company in this space.'

For its part, RIM said in a statement, 'RIM believes Visto's patents are invalid. Further, Visto's patent claims as directed against Seven Networks refer to a different type of system than RIM's technology'. RIM does not expect its customers to be impacted by Visto's complaint and, given the status of Visto's current litigation with other companies, it is unlikely that any material court proceedings in this litigation could begin prior to the middle of calendar 2007.'

Say what you will about Visto, the whole wireless messaging industry'one that's pretty central to communications in the 21st century'is a mess. As Friend himself pointed out in an earlier interview with GCN, the idea of wireless e-mail was around long before the actual infrastructure.

So the question becomes, who thought of what and when? And isn't it possible that smart engineers coming from different directions came upon similar solutions in a similar timeframe?

Unless PTO does it, the courts may have to decide. But lest we point too many fingers at certain litigious companies, keep in mind Seven Networks has its own countersuit pending against Visto. Even RIM hinted it might countersue Visto.

For now, at least, all those BlackBerries still work. Thank goodness.

Posted by Brad Grimes

Posted by Brad Grimes, Joab Jackson on May 05, 2006 at 9:39 AM


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