Research In Motion, makers of the once-ubiquitous BlackBerry smartphone, can't seem to catch a break lately. They continue to hemorrhage market share to iOS and Android, and their stock recently tumbled below the $10 mark for the first time in almost ten years, bringing the company's market cap to $5.09 billion, just one sixteenth of their value in 2007.
Now, to add insult to injury, they appear to be facing a patent infringement lawsuit. Mobile Telecommunications Technologies (MTEL) has filed suit against RIM in U.S. District Court in Texas, claiming that RIM has infringed on two of its patents. The patents in question (see here and here) cover mobile telephone call back system involving a mobile phone and a pager, and a system for delivering messages between a system network and mobile units. In addition to being broad, both patents are quite old. They were issued in September and December of 1996 (though one was filed in September of 1994). The complaint, embedded below, accuses RIM of violating MTEL's patents with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Infrastructure.
It probably goes without saying at this point, but MTEL is pretty clearly a patent troll. What's interesting about this case, though, is the timing. Any way you slice it, RIM is on the ropes. They're limping along as best they can, waiting for the BlackBerry 10 launch later this year. If BlackBerry 10 fails to perform, it's a fair bet that that will be the end of RIM as we know it. So MTEL appears to be striking while the iron is hot, as it were: if they have any chance of squeezing money out of RIM, now is probably their best opportunity. Even so, it's a pretty slimy move. Patent-trolling a company in RIM's current state is the epitome of kicking someone when they're down.