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Patents gone mad: BlackBerry’s $147 M patent infringment fine last week could spell major trouble for the mobile industry.

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BlackBerry makers RIM are being forced to pay a $8 royalty per device, which a Californian court estimate is “reasonable” sum,  for just one patent infringement.

It now means a total bill of $147.2 million for the struggling Canadian giant and could spell big trouble for the tech industry, warns patents guru Florian Mueller.

The massive fine was following an action brought by little known US company called Mformation in the U.S. District Court Northern California, handed down on Friday 13th last.

This fine was based on the court finding Research in Motion (RIM) infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,970,917 whicc relates to a “system and method for remote control and management of wireless devices” notes Mueller.

Mformation made seven patent infringement claims in all, but five of them were deemed anticipated.

This couldn’t come at a worse time for struggling BlackBerry who has already reported a US$518m loss in the last quarter and last week reports emerged investors may sue the company over the delays with the release of BB 10 OS.

RIM said it was “disappointed by the outcome and is evaluating all legal options.”

“RIM has worked hard for many years to independently develop its leading-edge BlackBerry technology and industry-leading intellectual property portfolio, and RIM does not believe that the Mformation patent in question is valid,” the company said in a  statement.

“I have no idea whether the blame for this crazy verdict is on the judge, the jury or on RIM’s legal team. The verdict, however, relates to a single software patent that I’ve looked at and can’t find anything exceptional about,” says Mueller.

“But whatever the reason… this verdict must be overturned at the earliest opportunity,” he believes as would mean even high flying tech giants like Apple and Android would be forced to fork out millions in patent licensing for every device sold, pushing phone (and other tech device) prices stratospheric.

Paying per-unit royalties for patented technologies (theres tons in every smartphone – up to 250,000, Google says) is “unsustainable” as it would mean the likes of Apple and Android vendors would be forced to pay out up to $1million per device – just in licensing costs alsone, says Mueller.

“We’re talking about a six-digit figure of patentable inventions in a smartphone, not a four- or five-digit figure.

 

“The potential licensing cost per smartphone would amount to $1,000,000 — yes, one million dollars per device.”

“This is absolutely unsustainable,” he warned and appears to be further evidence of a patents world gone mad, where everyone from Apple and Samsung, to HTC, Microsoft and Google Android are all battling it out over alleged patents infringements.

The trial judge in the RIM V Mformation case has yet to decide certain legal issues that might impact the verdict and RIM says it will “await those rulings before deciding whether to pursue an appeal.”

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