Today in Barron’s, there was an article “RIMM To Pay $267.5 Million To Settle Visto Patent Suit” by Eric Savitz.
I’m actually not that sad about this settlement. If Visto’s patents genuinely covered the technology used by RIM, then they had a duty to license their technology and not to steal it. Without delving deeper into the facts, I’d give RIM the benefit of the doubt that they just didn’t know about Visto’s patents when they went into that technology area. That happens quite often, and is the reason the patent system is in place. Here, Visto bought patents owned by Motorola and I would expect that RIM should have known about these patents and should have sought a license for the use of the subjects they cover, but I’m guessing that their GC thought, “hey, these patents were just bought by some venture capital (VC) company. What are the chances they’ll sue us?” Silly GC, VC’s are often trolls under a legitimate business structure.
Nevertheless, even if Visto was not some VC, it’s likely the same story — Big companies don’t take little companies / inventors holding patents seriously. They fail to realize that inventors pour out their life’s savings to develop a technology with the hopes of one day achieving some kind of financial remuneration for their inspiration and innovation. It is only fair that an inventor can hold a legal monopoly and can go to court to sue when their patent is infringe (noting that laches is always a good defense for the infringer as a side note because inventors often don’t act fast enough or they trip up while trying to send threat letters to the big companies letting them know of their infringement and then doing nothing when the big companies retort).
That being said, companies as big as RIM often take the little guy not seriously when they come with a valid patent in which they are practicing. They’ll stall, hee and haw, and will cost them thousands just to convince the huge companies to take a license from them.
Any inventor / small company that has to resort to going to court to resolve a patent disagreement deserves a good judgment because if it has come to a lawsuit, the licensing negotiation and stalling tactics by the big company has taken too long.
Obviously patent trolls are a different story. They didn’t invent the technology; they bought it at a fire sale and now they’re trying to assert it EVEN when they don’t have a strong case.
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