Late Friday, a Northern California District judge ruled that Canada-based Research in Motion infringed on a patent held by Mformation, a company that specializes in mobile device management. The patent in question relates to the software that runs on RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
RIM was ordered to pay an $8 royalty fee on the 18.4 million units that access the infringing software, meaning RIM owes $147 million in damages as of this weekend. This figure only included US-based devices sold to non-government employees, and Mformation’s attorney, Amar Thakur, told Bloomberg that the figure could double or triple if the company seeks damages on future sales outside the US and to government employees.
Mformation, which brought the suit against RIM back in 2008, claims they discussed details of their patented software with RIM in a licensing meeting. RIM declined to license Mformation’s product, and Mformation claims it found its patented systems in RIM’s software not long after.
RIM refutes this, saying it had independently implemented its device management system before Mformation filed its patent. In an e-mail to Bloomberg, Crystal Roberts, a spokeswoman for RIM, suggested that the company might seek a reversal of the damages based on the USPTO’s requirement that a patent not involve an obvious idea. "The court still has to decide the question of ‘Obviousness’ with respect to the validity of the only patent in suit," Roberts wrote.
RIM has already filed a request to the court to reverse Friday’s decision, but things aren’t looking good for the struggling phone maker. At the end of June, RIM reported a 33 percent quarter-to-quarter loss, and a delay of its next system, Blackberry 10, until 2013. Reuters reports that RIM’s stock has fallen more than 70 percent in the last year.
That the patent involved software on RIM’s Blackberry Enterprise Server, one of the major services that businesses still want from RIM, could well be disconcerting for investors. Ars’ Sean Gallagher reported in June that, "BlackBerry phones have continued to be the smartphone of choice for many companies—mostly because of their security and manageability. BlackBerry Enterprise Server was a big reason for that success, giving administrators a huge amount of control over RIM devices." But, Gallagher goes on to say, with Microsoft’s full entry into the mobile management realm, RIM has a lot to lose.