RealTime IT News

Good-vs-RIM Feud Gets Bad, Turns Ugly

The legal skirmishes continue to pile up for Research in Motion (RIM), as the Canadian wireless hardware and software maker filed a fourth lawsuit against rival startup Good Technology.

RIM has elevated the charges beyond concerns that Good's technology infringred on some of its own, suing the Sunnyvale, Calif. firm and one of its vice presidents for a mouthful of offenses. These include: misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, tortious interference with contracts and prospective economic relations, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and civil conspiracy.

Also unlike the three previous lawsuits, this one was filed in the United States Superior Court of the State of California -- not Delaware district court.

RIM said it is asking the court for injunctive relief, as well as an award of general, special and punitive damages for Good Technology's unfair competitive acts as well as money to recuperate attorneys' fees and costs to RIM.

RIM and Good told internetnews.com they could not comment on the case. A Good spokesperson said the company was reviewing the complaint.

While companies rarely make statements about pending cases, lawyers with no bearing on the case are free to speculate.

Scott Marrs, an intellectual property expert and partner for Houston's Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, said the fact that the case was moved to a superior court did not necessarily mean it was becoming more serious. However, he told internetnews.com, the fact that RIM is moving it to Good's home state is a maneuver that will make it hard for Good to claim the new suit lacks jurisdiction -- now it's in Good's backyard.

"What happens in these mobile communications cases, and for many technology related cases, is that these firms are moving so quickly to engineer new products that they don't have the 2 years to secure a patent," Marrs explained. "So, they're researching and developing in stealth mode, under secrecy."

Marrs said that when someone wrongly attains information, a victimized firm can sue under the "trade secrets" law, which is in essence what RIM is doing to Good this time around.

"This is a catch-all suit -- it spans the entire intellectual property landscape," Marrs said. "This is harder to get dismissed than your typical trademark, copyright and patent infringement cases, which are more technical in nature. In this case, there are generic bad facts that are alleged. It often evolves into a he-said, she-said situation. This is RIM's way of saying 'We had a meeting, you took information from an employee, so shame on you.'"

Marrs called the RIM vs. Good case a "bet-your-company" case and said RIM must be infuriated that Good is providing a service using RIM's products at a lower price. Good, he said, knew what it was getting into, as evidenced by its preemptive lawsuit in May.

RIM came gunning for Good in June 2002, alleging that Good Technology's wireless goods and services infringe on four RIM patents within RIM's Wireless Integration Patent Portfolio. RIM then ratcheted up the fight by filing two suits in July -- one alleging that Good Technology infringed on a portion of RIM's Copyright Portfolio associated with the user interface in its popular BlackBerry Wireless Handhelds, and one saying that Good Technology engaged in unfair competition, false advertising, trademark infringement and trademark dilution.

In related news, RIM seems to be litigation-happy thsi week, as it also said it filed suit against handheld rival Handspring for patent infringement.

Filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, the suit claims that some devices in the Treo Communicator series (Treo k180, Treo 270 and Treo 300) infringe the claims of a RIM patent associated with certain keyboard features implemented in its BlackBerry handhelds.