Anyway, I'm a little torn on this story. Like any American, I feel compelled to take sides so I can, you know, root for someone. But since this issue is mainly between one business, another business, and business-people, I don't really have a dog in the fight. Besides, it's much more fun watching Right-wingers battle it out with their unworkable dogma: Capitalism (and by extension business) is the best thing ever and we should let businesses do whatever they want.
If you're not familiar with the case, on one hand you have RIM, the makers of Blackberry. On the other, you have NTP, a holding company for the patents of the late Thomas Campana. Campana came up with a method to integrate email systems with wireless networks back in the early 90's. He patented the system and put the patent in a file cabinet and waited. Along comes RIM with their Blackberries and their ability to
Pro-Blackberry Right-wingers say that it's not fair that some stoopid little "company" that doesn't even make anything should be able to tell a big corporation like Blackberry what to do. They emphasize the fact that NTP is not a manufacturer in order to discredit them. Never mind that people like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Ben Franklin all invented things without manufacturing them - their strengths were in creating products and not necessarily in overseeing someone operating machinery.
On the other hand, Pro-NTP Right-wingers say this is just Capitalism in action and if NTP can extort $1 billion from RIM, then so be it. Forcing companies to license their technology to anyone who wants it and whatever price they name smacks of Socialism, and the Pharmaceutical companies are inclined to agree with that position. Granted, this group is considerably smaller, given that NTP requires the courts to collect. Wild West justice never used the courts (except as a handy place to lynch outlaws) and NTP seems to fit the Liberal whiny model.
Some commentators complain that since NTP wasn't actively using its patent, there's no harm done. They say there's no proof that RIM ever actually copied NTP - maybe they developed the idea on their own. Of course, this is irrelevant. When NTP filed its patent, it made a deal with the US government that it would give out the details of its idea to anyone who wanted it, for free, in exchange for protection from unauthorized use. Without this protection, how many of our tools of everyday life would be little more than sketches sitting in someone's drawer? I might be a brilliant physicist who comes up with a way to copy matter and "reprint" it somewhere else. I don't really care, because I was being paid to look for something that would turn lead into gold. Without patent laws, I might just stuff the idea in my desk, hoping to be able to work on it someday in the future. With patent laws, I file for a patent, giving my idea to the world. Some engineer, reading the patent, realizes I discovered teleportation and creates a trillion dollar industry, wiping out UPS, the Post Office, and private school carpool lines. Because of this, every parent who picks up their kids from school should support strong patent laws. Our country (and economy) relies more than ever on innovation.
On the other hand, the sheer number of ideas out there are simply overwhelming the system. The patent office is little more than a rubber stamp on patents, even when they have no merit. You could patent a method of rubbing peanut butter on bread before putting on jelly and then sue every elementary school for infringing. If innovation becomes too expensive, nobody will innovate.
So who am I rooting for? I haven't decided yet. In my bitter old age I am enjoying the pain and panic of Blackberry users. But that scheudenfraude aside, it will be very interesting to see how this works out.