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March 18, 2005
What was RIM v NTP actually about?
Popular press in the US, when it covered this case, tended to focus on whether people would get to keep their Blackberries, after a VA court issued an injunction against RIM selling the devices following a loss at trial. However, as Brenda Sandburg points out in a law.com column one of the key issues in the case was not just the patent claims but whether and how they applied outside the US.
In this case, the patent was US-based but one component of the BlackBerry system was not. In theory, US patent law says that the entire infringing process has to happen within the US. However, nobody was happy with that interpretation in this case, including the Canadian government. In the end, the court held that the BlackBerry was covered by US law since "the beneficial use and function of the whole operable system assembly is in the United States."
The reach of this decision is going to have to be tested - does it extend across the Atlantic? How will it interact with the new EU patent directives that we seem bound to get? How would a decision like this be read in the context of the Web? Or of a trans-national P2P network? I very much doubt we've heard the last of this.
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