BlackBerry Fiasco Leads to Patent Licensing Scrutiny

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said the lawsuit over licenses for Research In Motion’s (RIM) popular BlackBerry handheld device, brought by licensing firm NTP, may lead to a reform in how the government issues patents, Government Computer News reports.

 Davis, who is the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said in a letter dated January 27, 2006 that the case spotlighted inefficiencies in how the Patent and Trademark Office operates.  Davis also requested the opinion of PTO Director Jon Dudas.

"I ask you to provide me with your assessment of the current patent examination and reexamination processes, what reforms are needed, and how current shortcomings impact bringing new technological developments to the marketplace," Davis wrote.

Davis blames the current threat of a BlackBerry shutdown in the U.S. on the PTO, and says that had it better handled NTP’s patents in the past, the threat would not exist.

"If adequate resources were utilized to determine the initial validity of [NTP’s] patents, this controversy could have been avoided.  Additionally, if RIM’s reexamination requests had been acted upon more expeditiously, the current uncertainty could have been resolved long before it threatened critical service to the government and consumers," Davis wrote.

A spokeswoman for NTP declined to comment on the letter.

For CIO’s continuing coverage of the BlackBerry debacle, check out BlackBerry on the Edge.

-Al Sacco

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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