Research In Motion (RIM) is most famously knows for its smart phone device Blackberry. Blackberry, when first introduced in 1999, took the corporate market by storm because of its capability of storing and managing e-mails along with other professional tools. Later the introduction of Black Berry Messenger (BBM) was another successful addition and made it famous among the non-corporate user class all around the globe. From its inception to the introduction of Blackberry and until today, RIM has had various challenges in terms of safeguarding its intellectual property and took some steps to counteract those problems which I will be discussing in this paper.
1.What were some of the challenges that RIM faced to protect its intellectual property, and how did RIM handle those challenges?
The first challenge for RIM was in 2001 when it claimed that its competitor Glenayre Electronics infringed on its patent and charged dilution, unfair competition, and false advertising (1). As a result RIM sued them over using its patented mailbox integration technique that was exclusive to its Blackberry smartphone device which was later settled in their favor (2). Another lawsuit filed by RIM was against Good Technology in 2002. RIM alleged that Good was infringing on four of its patents.
The first is “for a method and apparatus to remotely control gateway functions in a wireless data communications network.” The second “relates to a method and system for loading an application program on a device.” The third “relates to a method and system for transmitting data files between computers in a wireless data communications environment.” And the fourth “relates to a mobile device that is optimized for use with thumbs” (3). Finally in 2004 Good Technology signed a settlement with RIM under which it will give RIM a lump-sum payment during its current quarter and ongoing quarterly royalties. Further financial details of the agreement were not disclosed (4).
Later in 2006, RIM was sued by mobile e-mail provider Visto Corporation that RIM violated four of its patents. The patents in question relate to the accessing and synchronizing of information over a network and are fundamental to the BlackBerry service (5). After a long battle of three years, in 2009 RIM agreed to pay $267.5 million to settle this dispute adding to a costly series of intellectual-property purchases (6). The company spent more than $1 billion in the past two years on intangible assets, such as patents. It booked part of the cost of the Visto settlement, which gave them a lifetime license to some Visto patents and legal possession of others, as an acquisition of intangible assets (6).
Another big event was the RIM-Motorolla lawsuits in 2008 when Motorolla filed a lawsuit against RIM for using its patented technology but in reply RIM sued back Motorolla. RIM filed the lawsuit for “demanding exorbitant royalties” on patents that were essential to RIM’s business. Besides being accused of “anti-competitive conduct,” Motorola was also accused of violating nine different patents and for breaking a 2003 agreement by refusing to agree to new terms beyond January 2008. Adding injury to lawsuit, RIM also claimed that Motorola’s licensing fees were due to “declining fortunes of its handset business” (7).
This long battle came to an end when both companies settled out of court. Under the Agreement, Motorola and RIM will benefit from a long-term, intellectual property cross-licensing arrangement involving the parties receiving cross-licenses of various patent rights, including patent rights relating to certain industry standards and certain technologies, such as 2G, 3G, 4G, 802.11 and wireless email. In addition, the parties will transfer certain patents to each other (8).
2.What were some of the industry factors that influenced RIM?
Industry factors that influenced RIM are Competition, Scale and Future (9). Patents, copyrights and trademarks help a firm safeguard its intellectual assets giving it an edge in the market and enabling to stay competitive in the market. From the lawsuits discussed above, we can see that just in 10 years on inception, RIM had over seven patent related issues for its technology. In technological field, a patent enables a firm to bank on its technology by not allowing other firms to use and produce it. So it enables the firm with the patent to have exclusive right to that technology and have a competitive advantage. When a firm’s technology is successful, patent enables that firm to exploit from it and hence expand their firms scale by securing a larger consumer base leading to a better bright future for the firm.
3.Apply as many TCOs as you can to the RIM.
There are quite a few TCOs that can be applied to RIM. Competence Enhancing and Component Innovation applies very well to RIM. Looking at the introduction of Blackberry in 1999, after 14 years we still find them have a strong demand among the smartphone consumer base. So RIM has constantly been improving its blackberry phones keeping them up to date by providing new features that keep the consumer base attracted. Similarly if we look at introduction of features like e-mail service and BBM for blackberry, they are following the component innovation ideology discussed in the course.
On the other hand, RIM also follows the concept Network Externalities. BBM can be a good example to support this. Anyone with a blackberry anywhere in the world can send a free message to the other blackberry user using the blackberry network. BBM is actually one of the features’ that has protected Blackberry against I-phone. Tying to BBM, RIM also follows the policy of Trade Secret because no one other than the corporation itself has access to the BBM data. RIM has gone to an extent that recently in India, even the government was not allowed to access the BBM data and after a 19 month service ban the government, RIM finally allowed them to have access but through a different server (10).
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