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Patents v. Blackberry and Palm ... Enter: Google

First, NTP takes Blackberry's manufacturer, RIM, for $612.5 million after using patent law to threaten to shut them down. Now, they're going after Palm for its wireless email system. As the great tech-curmudgeon John C. Dvorak bemoans,

This was sadly inevitable the moment NTP won against RIM. After NTP finishes sucking blood from Palm, it will then continue the round robin of litigation that seems to be its only business model. I understand the law, because as an IP generator myself I want protections against idea theft, but wince inside every time the laws get abused.

[As I noted in the comments to Dvorak's post: "people who support IP law and then complain about it [] leave me speechless. [] I do not think it is "abuse" of the law to use it. It's like setting up a welfare system and expecting people not to use it. It's like giving away free cash and expecting there to be no takers."]

In any event: I have long wondered how long Blackberry can maintain its lead in mobile email. Yes, I have one, and it's great for email (but not so great for web surfing or applications, since it does not run Windows mobile). But it has always seemed to me just a matter of time that some kind of web interface, maybe a Gmail based one, would just supplant dedicated mobile email platforms. The same day I learn of the NTP patent suit against Palm, I learn of the new "Gmail for mobile" application. I have already downloaded and installed it onto my blackberry—it took under a minute—and it works great. Just amazing. The new Gmail for mobile application is fast and has the same gmail functionality as your web-based Gmail account. Same Gmail interface; and it even synchronizes with your regular gmail account. I tried it. It works seamlessly. It even permits you to view attachments such as photos, documents and .pdf files—I tried all 3—again, it works, better than my standard Blackberry email's attachment-viewing feature. Much better.

It seems to me that if NTP puts too much pressure on Palm or other mobile email providers to pay exhorbitant royalties, consumers will just switch to free mobile-web-based email such as Gmail mobile. I suspect Gmail mobile's availability is tempering NTP's demands. Whether NTP will sue Google itself or not is hard to predict. But I suspect Google would not go down without a fight. After all, they are fighting off hordes of vested copyright and publisher interests with their Google Print project (now called Google Book Search, apparently). This is a company with cojones and spirit.


Update. For more on Google's greatness, see this post by attorney Denise Howell, who runs the popular legal blog Bag and Baggage: OwnzOred, By Google (Happy, By God): in which our intrepid blawger notes that "The ways in which Google makes itself indispensable keep proliferating." First, she notes that "Google Alerts now includes Blogs (along with News, Web, and Groups; if you select "comprehensive" as the alert type you get 'em all)". Second,

Still eschewing Blackberry and/or Treodom, I've been living on Gmail in my cell phone for some time; and that already terrific experience just got much better [with Gmail mobile]. Not yet, but soon I'm sure, this will eliminate the need to worry about getting one's contacts on to one's cell phone; they'll just be there, thanks to Gmail. Gmail makes any phone a "smart" phone, full of your crucial data to access in a couple of clicks.

Howell also uses Google to create what is in effect a network between PC's not on a local network. You can use Gmail, Google Browser Sync, and now, Google Docs which permits online storing and collaboration of documents such as word and spreadsheet files. All of which I too have used.

The Googlesphere is expanding...


Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.