Debate on patents heating up


The $612.5 million settlement by BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. with NTP Inc. appears to end the long-running patent fight, but the case will continue to spur efforts to revise the United States patent system, according to legal experts and technology executives.

The patent-licensing payment announced Friday marks one of the biggest such settlements ever, and is greater than RIM’s cumulative net income since the company came out with the BlackBerry in 1999. (RIM’s net-income totals subtracted $450 million in charges that RIM had accrued to cover a potential settlement.)

The deal was reached despite recent steps by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office toward revoking the patents held by NTP that were at issue.

The closely watched case has provided fodder in the debate over whether U.S. law gives patent holders too much leverage.

Defenders of the system say stiff measures are needed to protect the rights of inventors and encourage innovation. But many technology executives argue that injunction provisions under U.S. law are outdated and enable patent-holding firms to extract prohibitive payments from others seeking to bring useful products to market.

“It won’t be too long before this brand of litigation triggers a backlash, in the form of patent reform,” said Matthew D’Amore, a patent lawyer with Morrison & Foerster.

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