Better bite the bullet, RIM

Bringing up the subject of Research In Motion‘s legal battle with U.S.-based NTP can generate a pretty heated emotional response in some circles, and I’m not just talking about RIM’s Christmas party or one of co-CEO Jim Balsillie‘s poker night get-togethers. What began as little more than a nuisance lawsuit from an unknown company four years ago has become one of the biggest — and potentially most expensive — legal wars in recent memory.

Opinions on the case have quickly become polarized. Those who believe that NTP’s patents on wireless e-mail are invalid and should never have been issued in the first place see the lawsuit (and potential injunction against the sale of RIM’s products in the United States) as a form of legalized extortion. A great Canadian success story is being held to ransom, they argue, based on a mistake by the overworked and ill-informed U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. To this group, the battle between RIM and NTP is about fundamental issues of right and wrong, truth and justice.

Others, meanwhile, see RIM’s refusal to settle with NTP (or its foot-dragging on the terms of a settlement) as a symptom of the Canadian company’s hubris, an attitude that has arguably hurt not just the company but also its shareholders. Instead of agreeing to license the NTP patents early on in the process, they argue, RIM has left itself open to the threat of having to pay billions of dollars more than it otherwise would have, as well as losing customers and partners as a result of its intransigence. To this group, RIM’s battle might be right in principle, but wrong in practice.

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