RIM Loss a Victory for the Little Guy?

by Jeff Wiener on July 19, 2012

While obviously still celebrating their landmark courtroom win against fading mobile giant Research in Motion, lawyers for the mobile management firm Mformation are framing the legal decision in a different way: a victory for the little guy.

Foley & Lardner attorney Amar Thakur, who represented Mformation in this legal dispute, says the decision, one that saw RIM slammed with $147.2 million in punitive damages for infringing on Mformation’s wireless mobile device management software patents, should encourage even the smallest inventor or patent holder that the US legal system works. 

The justice system, Thakur explains, “allows small businesses to protect their patented inventions against unauthorized used by large corporations. Today the legal system worked.” But did it really work, or is this just another case of a patent troll capitalizing on a company who made it big through its own hard work and innovation?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a great respect for the institution of patents and patent protection, as I highly value people’s ability to innovate and drive markets forward and think they should be recognized and compensated for it. But at the same time I’m keenly aware of how companies have been able to exploit this system in the past, amassing intellectual property portfolios that they have no intention of using to drive markets forward, instead employing them only to penalize any company who actually does.

“We ensured that our early innovation in device management were put through rigorous legal assessment by applying for patents on those innovations in the United States and abroad,” notes Rakesh Kushwaha, Mformation founder and chief technology officer, going on to say, “With a total of 27 patents granted or pending, our IP portfolio will allow us to continue to shape the future of the Mobile Device Management market.”

Again, while I have great respect for technology and telecommunication innovators, it’s the last line of the above quote that leads me to think that Mformation may be nothing more than a patent troll–a puppet master who hopes to control others while offering nothing substantive on its own–given the fact the company seems to be doing little with those 27 patents other than suing companies like RIM with them.

But perhaps I’m looking at this entire situation the wrong way, perhaps Mformation’s landmark victory is actually a boon to smaller companies who often find themselves threatened or manipulated by the market powers that be. Operating a SMB, I know first hand how to feels to be strong armed by the bigger players in the marketplace, meaning there still exists a soft spot in my heart for the underdog, which Mformation clearly was pitted against RIM.

So what do you think? Did Mformation score one for the little guy, or did it simply see an opportunity to capitalize on another’s success, leeching money off RIM’s hard work and innovation?

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