Can't We All Just Get Along?

Earlier this week, Blackberry maker BlackBerry won a rare victory in court. Unfortunately for RIM, it wasn't in a U.S. court but a German one.

A German patent court ruled that patents held by InPro Licensing related to mobile email are invalid, thus quashing InPro's infringement lawsuit against the Waterloo, Ontario, mobile messaging giant. RIM is hoping for a similar outcome in its long-running intellectual-property dispute with NTP over patents also related to mobile email technology. Unfortunately, whatever the outcome in the RIM-NTP battle, it won't solve the problem of technology IP in the U.S., which seems forever in dispute.

Another tech pioneer, eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY), is facing a permanent injunction against using its "Buy It Now" feature, which lets users pay for online purchases using PayPal with a credit card or with other PayPal funds – a process allegedly patented by MercExchange, a patent-holding company. A U.S. Appeals Court ruling last year found against eBay; the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in the case.

The tech world has been plagued with IP disputes ever since the early, freebooting days of Silicon Valley. Many people involved with these battles say that U.S. patent law has not kept up with the rapid advance of technology, and that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is staffed by a bunch of geezers in green eyeshades and sleeve garters, blowing the dust off huge 19th-century logbooks. Be that as it may, there's got to be a way to cure this plague of patent suits.

Unfortunately, such a cure would involve tech-company executives making far-sighted decisions for the good of current and future customers – something that tech execs are not always prone to do. The evolution of technology, like any other historical process, is driven by real people making decisions in real time. And if a lot more people bringing emerging technologies to market were focused on building better products, and serving customers, rather than suing each other over obscure patent claims, we'd all be better off.

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We're confident that you'll be better off, anyway, with this new and improved version of our weekly newsletter, which so far faces no IP legal challenges. It all coincides with the relaunch of Unstrung itself, now incorporating CMP Media's Mobile Pipeline. While the Unstrung Weekly newsletter normally goes out on Tuesdays, we held it a day to coincide with our new look and feel, and as another way to welcome our new readers.

Please let us know what you think, and keep turning to Unstrung for the most valuable news and analysis for enterprise wireless users.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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