Moto and RIM File Dueling Lawsuits

Oh JOY! More lawsuit-fun-time in the fountain of patent wars that is the smartphone industry. This time around it's RIM vs. Motorola, both saying that the other is infringing on their smartphone patents. RIM started the excitement on the 16th, claiming that Motorola violated 9 patents and that Motorola has been charging “exorbitant royalties” for licenses on patents that Moto has.

One of the patents RIM holds and is suing over: “a mobile device 'with a keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs.'” You read that right, they hold a patent on putting a QWERTY keyboard on a phone. The same patent they successfully forced Handspring (who made the original Treo) to settle on.

The basic skinny here is that both companies hold patents on very basic smartphone functions and they've been working together as best they can to license these patents to each other. Looks like the relationship is getting a might bit frosty, though. Maybe Motorola is, as RIM contends, getting a little greedy. Or maybe RIM just smells Motorola's blood in the water.

Not to be outdone, Moto has countersued, claiming that, Nuh-uh, it's RIM who's the dirty patent stealer, infringing on 7 Motorola patents. The intellectual property Moto is defending is as ridiculously simple and obvious as RIM's:

a method of storing contact information in wireless e-mails, a way of recognizing incoming phone numbers, a way of controlling access to new applications on a wireless-messaging device and ways to improve functions on the menu-driven interface of a phone handset

The fun doesn't stop there, though. This is all going down in Texas (RIM's suit is in Dallas, Moto's is in East Texas). East Texas is home to the “rocket docket,” where IP suits get moved through the system lickety-split and often favor the plantiff. Suddenly RIM's decision to place their US headquarters in Dallas instead of someplace closer to Canada is starting to make a little more sense. Lawsuits over basic cellphone functionality are getting so commonplace these days, RIM needs to be close to the action, whichever side of it they may be on.

(Note how we kindly didn't bring up the recent BlackBerry outage. Oops! Just did.)

WC Staff