June 19, 2002 1:05 PM PDT

RIM sues rival Good over patents

Research In Motion has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Good Technology, accusing the start-up of violating its intellectual property rights.

Good makes software that is similar to the software that runs on RIM's handheld devices and can send and receive e-mail over wireless networks. The company tried to pre-empt RIM's patent claims by filing suit against RIM last month. That suit asked a U.S. District Court in California to declare RIM's patent on a technology called "single unified e-mail" invalid, or to declare that Good is not violating the patent.

The RIM suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware, accuses Good of violating four patents and asks the court for an injunction barring Good from using the technology and for monetary damages, including attorney's fees.

Enterprise customers can buy Good software, called GoodLink, to replace RIM's BlackBerry software. Good plans to release a branded device of its own later this summer.

Representatives of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Good did not immediately return calls for comment on the suit.

A pioneer in the field for wireless e-mail, Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM has been quite protective of its turf and has defended its market position and technology through lawsuits in the past. RIM filed suit against rival Glenayre Technologies in 2001 over alleged patent infringement, but eventually settled the case.

Good has said it wants to work with RIM to expand the market for always-on, two-way e-mail technology. At the same time, the start-up has been successful in grabbing some of RIM's customers.

Good Technology claims 1,000 software subscribers, according to a recent report from Goldman Sachs. In its latest financial report, RIM said BlackBerry subscribers increased by approximately 32,000 to a total of 321,000 during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002.

RIM is alleging that Good is infringing on four of its patents, according to the suit. The first is "for a method and apparatus to remotely control gateway functions in a wireless data communications network." The second "relates to a method and system for loading an application program on a device." The third "relates to a method and system for transmitting data files between computers in a wireless data communications environment." And the fourth "relates to a mobile device that is optimized for use with thumbs."

Rich Belgard, an independent technology-patent consultant based in Saratoga, Calif., said that he was not surprised by RIM's suit. The battle now, he added, would be over "home court" advantage.

"Clearly RIM filed (its suit) in Delaware expecting Delaware to be a more plaintiff-friendly court," Belgard said.

Good filed its suit in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. Belgard said that he expected Good to file for a consolidation of the two suits with the California court and that it is "very likely" it will be granted. Judges in the Northern District have a reputation for being familiar with technology patent cases.

Separately on Wednesday, RIM announced that it is licensing from Ericsson technology several mobile telephony standards, including the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE) and CDMA2000.

RIM will make royalty payments to Ericsson and grant the Swedish company a reciprocal license. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

RIM has already used some of the Ericsson patents that were the subject of Wednesday's announcement. Devices that double as phones sold by VoiceStream Wireless were built using some GPRS technology developed by Ericsson, said spokeswoman Michelle French.

French said RIM is paying Ericsson royalties on the sales of any devices using their patents. The deal also lets Ericsson build future devices using some of RIM's patents, such as those for routing e-mails through mobile and landline telephone networks, French said.

News.com's Richard Shim contributed to this report.

 

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