Saturday, September 15, 2007

NTP Sues Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile

I think that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. RIM had been walking around suing companies for having a miniature keyboard on their mobile devices. If you believe NTP, it was this blatant patent trolling that led NTP to file its own suit. (How would NTP explain this one?) Furthermore, RIM refused to settle for $10 million, and its courtroom behavior was horribly bad. However, once it was obvious that NTP could get injunctive relief and shut down all Blackberry service in the United States, RIM had no leverage at all and had to pay an extortionate amount to settle before they went bankrupt.

There is a huge difference: RIM is a Canadian company. This simple fact limited them in three very important aspects:

(1) Many US Courts are biased in favor of US litigants.
(2) As a foreign company, RIM is severely limited in the amount of campaign contributions to US politicians.
(3) As a Canadian company, RIM does not have a home town congressman and senator.

All of these limitations are not unique to the US, they largely apply to US companies suing or getting sued overseas. See the different treatment Microsoft got in the US and the EU cases.
It's potentially different in another aspect. IBM was not just trying to win the case against SCO: they could have done that any number of times. What they were trying to was make an example of SCO, crushing them slowly and draining all the legal juice out, setting sufficient precedent that no-one in their right minds would ever do anything like that again. I don't see another SCO happening for a long, long time.

I wouldn't mind seeing someone take the same road with NTP. IBM's executives correctly understood that appeasement rarely works. If you have the resources, winning a head-on battle is better in the long run than a buy-off, because you won't be a target when it's over.

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