Monday, May 15, 2006

US Supreme Court weighs on the side of tech companies against "patent trolls"

The US Supreme Court has weighed in on the side of tech companies today as they voted to support a motion by Ebay to change the rulings on certain patent-infringement cases brought against tech companies by so called "patent trolls".

For, until now, courts almost always issue an injunction to force companies to change the design of their products, once they have been found to have infringed a patent.

Today the justices ruled unanimously that there should be another option: courts should have discretion whether to allow companies to continue making their product, and compensate for the infringement with money damages, rather than forcing them always to design around the infringed patent.

This should reward the owners who have been unfairly infringed as well as maintain rapid product development cycles that are so essential to the innovation cycle in tech products. And it should also remove some of the theats hanging over tech companies and their users by overly aggressive "patent trolls".

I wonder how this ruling might have altered the high profile case of NTP versus RIM's Blackberry had it been in place last year. RIM may actually have ended up settling for less.

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