RealTime IT News

RIM Licenses 'Invention Company' Patents

Research in Motion (RIM) has licensed a trove of more than 30,000 patents from a company founded by former Microsoft veterans. It's a move that may help the BlackBerry maker ward off patent infringement lawsuits.

Intellectual Ventures (IV), which bills itself as an "invention company," announced the deal Wednesday. The firm is headed by Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

"As an IV customer, RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) can now complement its own strong patent portfolio with access to IV's portfolio and can leverage IV's portfolio in its future licensing negotiations," an IV statement said.

Neither company said precisely why RIM chose to take out a license with IV, or what the terms of the deal were.

Indeed, other companies, including HTC, Samsung, and SAP have recently taken out licenses with IV, "for defensive purposes," an IV statement said.

"You're seeing a lot of legal battles [recently], particularly around smartphones, and I think the key is access to inventions," Mario Obeidat, head of telecommunications licensing at IV, told InternetNews.com.

In December, IV sued nine companies in the software security and DRAM industries for allegedly infringing some of its patents.

Among the security firms IV sued were Check Point Software, McAfee, Symantec, and Trend Micro. Additionally, IV also sued Elpida Memory, Hynix Semiconductor, Altera, Lattice Semiconductor, and Microsemi Corp.

Since he retired from Microsoft in 2000, Myhrvold and IV co-founder Edward Jung, another Microsoft veteran, built a company that deals in intellectual property in many fields, and not just computing and telecommunications. IV's interests range from miniature nuclear reactors to treatments for malaria.

Besides purchasing and licensing intellectual property, IV also works on its own inventions. The company claims that its licensing activities have brought in as much as $2 billion so far.

While not currently on IV's list of alleged patent infringers, RIM is no stranger to patent lawsuits.

Most notably, in 2006, RIM paid patent holding company NTP some $612.5 million in order to settle claims after a Virginia court found that the BlackBerry violated NTP's wireless patents.

Neither are RIM's days in court over.

In January, Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK) sued both RIM and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPLE) for what it claims is infringement of a Kodak patent that has to do with previewing images on a camera phone.

Myhrvold, meanwhile, is a polymath with expertise in many areas, including as a chef. In fact, he recently published an opulent five-volume set of books entitled Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.

A spokesperson for RIM did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.