BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's decision to settle
with NTP for $615 million in an infringement case involving wireless E-mail patents is good news for the likes of Tom Woolston, Dick Snyder, and Neil Balthaser. All three hold patents on IT that others contend they don't deserve.Woolston, CEO of MercExchange, is in a patent fight
with eBay over the online auction house's "Buy It Now" feature. Snyder heads Forgent Networks, the holder of a JPEG compression technology patent and plaintiff in dozens of lawsuits
contending some major corporations owe it licensing fees. And last month, the government granted Balthaser a patent
on a process involving the use of rich media over the Internet.
What all three of these patent holders have in common with NTP is that their patents are under attack. The likelihood that the Patent Office might invalidate NTP's patents is meaningless. BlackBerry was forced to settle even though one day NTP might not have the right to enforce the patents. But today the patents are enforceable, and there's nothing RIM or anyone else can do about it.
It's much like the kid who owns the ball in the playground. He determines the rules of the game and who gets to play. For now, right or wrong, Tom, Dick, and Neil own the ball and control the court, and that's all that seems to count.