RIM's incendiary patent for a wireless device keyboard may explode harmlessly, after all: killing only the bomb-maker.
That's the verdict of m'learned Register readers. The patent claim, riddled with typos and non-sequiters, has already been widely reviled, but if successful could blow a chill through the handheld industry.
When we spoke to Danger Inc CEO Andy Rubin last week he declined to comment on the issue. We spoke to Palm and Handspring, the latter having received a writ the same day as the claim was granted, we exclusively revealed here, and Handspring has yet to make its position public either. Handspring says it received no advanced notice from Lawsuits in Motion of the impending claim, and learned about the suit from the wires.
But it's highly unlikely to succeed , argues Edgar Matias, a former keyboard researcher and alumnus of the University of Toronto's Input Research Group.
"The patent was filed on July 6, 2001. According to their 1998 annual report (http://www.rim.net/investors/pdf/1998rim_ar.pdf), the RIM pager has been on the market since 1998 and was announced in 1997, so it was public knowledge 4 years before they applied for a patent," he writes.
"You cannot patent public knowledge."
And it was Motorola, not RIM that introduced the world's first commercial two-way pager in 1996. It had a thumb keyboard and small display, as you can see from their annual report for that year.
"So, clearly RIM did not invent wireless messaging, and they obviously did not invent the thumb keyboard, or the Blackberry form-factor either."
"At best, their patent will protect their particular implementation of a two-way pager, which is really not much protection at all."
Another reader points a further flaw in the claim.
Having a look through the detail of the patent, I think that the wording that they've applied for has left themselves open to losing all those spangly new court-cases...
"See Claims: What is claimed: 1, sec 4: a transceiver for sending and receiving e-mail messages to and from a wireless network. Don't know about you, but most of the e-mails I send, whether from a hand-held device or my computer, are sent or received to and from individual users or groups of users, identified by e-mail addresses, and not networks. I don't think I've ever sent an e-mail to a wireless network, and I can't recall receiving one, not even in the vast reams of spam we all have to deal with.
"Generally, I would say that the transceiver would be used for sending data-packets, and not e-mails per se, using a wireless network as the medium.
"If I'm thinking right, then they should have spent a bit more money on lawyers to get a good patent."
Motorola, Nokia or Ericsson has yet to make a comment on the stink. ®