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  1. kin
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       #1  
    So Handspring admits to have infringed on RIM's patents. So what are these patents? Does anyone know. I've seen a lot of discussions on the topic but no decription of the designs that were copied.
  2. #2  
    The press release from Handspring and RIM does not state the patent numbers involved, but a quick search reveals that RIM owns at least 52 patents, including the following:

    Patent No. 6,396,482 for "Hand-held electronic device with a keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs"

    Patent No. 6,278,442 for "Hand-held electronic device with a keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs"

    Patent No. D416,256 for "Hand-held messaging device with keyboard"

    For more about patent law, especially as it applies to high-technology, read some of the patent law articles on GigaLaw.com, or subscribe to GigaLaw.com Daily News via e-mail.
  3. kin
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       #3  
    Is there a specific detail that Handspring infringed on? The patent should cover specific details and mention counts of novelty. It cannot be so general to say a device with a keyboard - that would cover thousands of existing products, most of which were around before RIM.
  4. #4  
    The details are in the claims of the patents themselves, which can be viewed by entering the patent numbers on the website of the U.S. Patent Office's patent number search page.

    As I stated above, I do not know whether the patents listed above are those Handspring has agreed to license, because neither Handspring nor RIM has disclosed that information.

    In addition, keep in mind that no court has found (at least as far as I know) that Handspring actually infringed any of RIM's patents. Instead, RIM filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Handspring and the parties settled by agreeing to a licensing arrangement. This is a very common end to patent litigation. As stated in my new book, The GigaLaw Guide to Internet Law, "Over the years, the owners of Internet and computer technology patents have used licenses quite effectively to exploit the patented technology through others while creating a real revenue stream to the licensor." (page 142)
  5. #5  
    As I recall, the original release from RIM said they were suing over the keyboard. I don't think they've sued any other thumboard manufacturers. That would make sense since the Treo is the first device other than RIM to offer a built-in thumboard. (The new Palm Tungsten W will have one too.)

    It's possible that HS could have fought the suit, but decided it's cheaper to pay the licensing rights than the legal fees.
  6. #6  
    Originally posted by J. Kevin Wolfe
    the Treo is the first device other than RIM to offer a built-in thumboard.
    What about the Sharp Zaurus? And certainly there are other thumboards available, though as clip-on (not integrated) devices (which may or may not be relevant to RIM's patents, I don't know).
  7. #7  
    Doug, I guess I missed the Zaurus. Maybe RIM figures they can't get any money from a products that's not selling. And from your research, it sounds to me like the built-in thumboard is where they've got the case.
  8. #8  
    Originally posted by J. Kevin Wolfe
    Maybe RIM figures they can't get any money from a products that's not selling.
    Or, maybe Sharp has been sued by RIM but we've just not heard about it. Or, maybe RIM determined that the Zaurus keyboard does not infringe any of its patents. Or, maybe RIM plans to sue Sharp but just hasn't done so yet and the statute of limitations has not expired. Or, maybe RIM sent a demand letter to Sharp asserting its patent rights and Sharp settled quietly before a lawsuit was filed.

    Obviously, there are many possibilities, but I doubt that RIM is basing its decision on sales of the Zaurus product. After all, in addition to getting monetary damages by winning a lawsuit or a stream of licensing revenue by settling a lawsuit, a patent holder also can obtain an injunction preventing a company from selling a product that infringes.
  9. #9  
    News today that Palm is now licensing RIM's patents for its new device that includes an integrated thumboard. This certainly seems to add some credibility to the validity of RIM's patents.
  10. kin
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       #10  
    Sharp has been around far longer than RIM and have offered for sale many products that have a simillar keyboard as RIM machines. Therefore, there is no way that RIM can sue Sharp for just offering devices that have keyboards incorporated.

    And as far as patent laws go, you cannot patent something that has been already used in another product or even just disclosed to the public (and is therefore common knowledge).

    Patent law is all about offering a novel design or solution that has never been used before. So there is some aspects of the RIM design that is unique.

    The question is what exactly is the unique design or feature? The slant shape of the buttons? Or the convex curve of the button arrangement?

    If we know what it is and we can find an older device using the patented feature, I wonder what would happen....
  11. #11  
    I dunno, i'm thinking Handspring and their legal team already looked back for a device that used RIMs patented feature. If they didn't do any research then they deserve to pay double of whatever RIM charges for the license.
  12. #12  
    Originally posted by kin
    The question is what exactly is the unique design or feature? The slant shape of the buttons? Or the convex curve of the button arrangement?
    If the patents at issue are those three listed by number in my earlier post in this thread, then the answer to your question can be found by reading the claims in those patents.

    If we know what it is and we can find an older device using the patented feature, I wonder what would happen....
    What would happen is the patent might be invalidated and therefore rendered unenforceable. There's a big industry in doing just what you suggest, especially with respect to "high-tech" patents. It's known as "patent busting" in the industry. Of course, I suspect Handspring and Palm already have done their research and came up empty-handed.

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