• United States

RIM competitor defends U.S. patent office

Mar 16, 20062 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLegal

Visto co-founder may agree that there's always room for improvement, but defends the patent office based on results.

Despite recent criticism of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, including sharp words from push e-mail provider Research In Motion, a co-founder of Visto says the patent office has been a great success.

RIM, the BlackBerry maker that recently agreed to pay $612 million to settle a long-running patent infringement case, placed an advertisement in several newspapers this week thanking its supporters and also saying the patent system is in need of change.

“As to the lingering question of why the patent system should allow such a bizarre set of circumstances to threaten millions of American consumers in the first place, we share your concern,” the company wrote.

While he contends that there’s always room for improvement, Daniel Mendez, Visto co-founder and chief strategy officer, defends the patent office. “At any point in time people look at [the patent office] and say it’s broken, it’s a disaster, it needs to be revamped, but if you judge by the results, they’re fantastic,” he said. The U.S. patent office for around 200 years has presided over more innovation than any other country within the same time frame, he said.

RIM agreed to settle its patent dispute with NTP earlier this month, even though the patent office had preliminarily ruled that the NTP patents were invalid. Due to what RIM calls a loophole, the legal battle was allowed to progress regardless of the patent office rulings.

Visto has clearly worked the existing patent office system to its benefit. Over the past few years, Visto has filed patent infringement suits against many of the leading push e-mail players, including Infowave Software, Seven Networks, Good Technology and Microsoft. Most of the suits are still outstanding except for Infowave, which settled in 2004, agreeing to license Visto’s software.

Perhaps in a show of solidarity against RIM, late last year Visto signed a licensing agreement with NTP, which also acquired an equity stake in Visto.

All this litigation among push e-mail companies points to a market with large potential, Mendez said. The litigation is happening because there are a couple companies that have been around for many years, yet the market is only now showing significant potential, drawing new competitors in, he said.

“That’s a confluence of circumstances that you see very infrequently, and that’s why there is more turmoil in this space,” he said.


Nancy Gohring is a freelance journalist who started writing about mobile phones just in time to cover the transition to digital. She's written about PCs from Hanover, cellular networks from Singapore, wireless standards from Cyprus, cloud computing from Seattle and just about any technology subject you can think of from Las Vegas. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Computerworld, Wired, the Seattle Times and other well-respected publications.

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