The first and probably largest patent infringement lawsuit to rock the technology sector in the last year is the BlackBerry case which alleges Research In Motion basically stole NTPís idea. Itís an epic that has been going on for some time that is well documented. But this isnít the first of these lawsuits. Nope, AT&T and Garmin both decided to take a dip into this realm last week warning Apple (among others) and suing TomTom, respectively.
AT&T is telling Apple Computer, Inc, CyberLink Corp, DivX, Inc, InterVideo, Inc, and Sonic Solutions that their use of MPEG-4 technology are blatant use against several patents of Ma Bellís. “Each of these companies has been advised that they are offering infringing products, that AT&T can provide proof of infringement, and that AT&T is offering a license under reasonable on non-discriminatory terms,” Michael J. Robinson, licensing director of AT&T Intellectual Property Management, wrote in a letter sent in December 2005 that PC Magazine has obtained.
The AT&T details are a bit hard to follow as not all of MPEG-4 is AT&Tís. Thatís the gotcha of the warning and the gray area lawyers love. If AT&T wins this suit – wow! – what a windfall this former telecommunications giant could get.
Moving from video to GPS, we now hear from Garmin that Dutch GPS maker TomTom is ripping off Garminís technology. Ease of use and “un-needed streets not appearing on the screen” are about what it comes down to. Since details are limited, itís hard to say for sure what patents are being infringed on, but Garmin made one think clear, it’s proud of its technology.
The problem with the above infringements is one thing. Why did the offended companies take so long to say something? Iíve reviewed TomTomís GPS for the Palm over two years ago. MPEG-4 has been around for some time and BlackBerry, well, it’s been around for almost forever in technology speak. These lawsuits donít make sense other than companies seeing a gold mine to be struck.
I wonít break it all down, but NTP ainít doing too well in comparison to RIM. Cha-ching! AT&T. Well, after selling off most of itself to SBC, a Baby Bell, there really isnít much going on for the former monopoly. Cha-hing! Garmin? You know, it ainít doing bad, but with TomTomís market blitz of its TomTomGo, Garminís name doesnít really roll off people’s lips when they go to Best Buy for a GPS unit. Cha-ching!
Look, many companies have many patents. Appleís got a ton that Microsoft has infringed on and the same for Microsoft with Apple infringing against Redmondís empire. Like good little boys, they just look the other way. Whatís the difference with Apple and Microsoft (and others such as IBM, the world’s largest patent holder?) Thereís no need to go after one another as it makes no financial sense while these other companies have lots to gain. Man, thatís not business, that just sad! Compete better with your inventions and MARKET THEM, you guys! How íbout you make the product? I mean, if the company that is making money off of these inventions have “financially hurt” your entity, doesnít that mean you had to actually use that invention?
I donít want companies that really did create something cool to get shafted, but I also donít want companies that sat on something cool for years and years to shaft another company for something similar that shared it with the world for our better, either.