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Start-up looking to beat RIM to the punch

Good Technology's lawsuit against Research In Motion is a pre-emptive strike designed to give the upstart an advantage in an anticipated patent struggle, lawyers say.

Lawyers said Tuesday that Good Technology's lawsuit against Research In Motion, maker of the market-leading BlackBerry handheld e-mail device, is a pre-emptive strike designed to give Good a kind of home-field advantage in an anticipated patent struggle.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Good filed the suit earlier this month in a U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The suit asks the court to establish that Good has not infringed on RIM's patent, or to invalidate that patent.

Good's GoodLink software can replace RIM's software on the BlackBerry, and the company will officially release a BlackBerry-like gadget of its own later this year.

"Good Technology is taking the initiative," said Daniel Harris, an intellectual-property lawyer and a partner at the legal firm Brobeck, Phleger and Harrison. "The most important move for Good was the choice of forum. The Northern District deals with a lot of patent cases, so the judges are really familiar with these kinds of cases." Good filed the suit with the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.

Rich Belgard, an independent technology-patent consultant based in Saratoga, Calif., added that timing was also an issue, and that Good was sending RIM a message.

"This was a pre-emptive strike," Belgard said. "There are two reasons to pre-empt: so they can control the timing of any legal action against them...and to alert RIM that they are interested in some sort of discussion."

Good Technology has in the past stressed that it wants to work with RIM to expand the market for always-on, two-way e-mail technology. However, the start-up has also been snatching some of Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM's customers.

RIM representatives declined to comment for this story. Good also declined to comment, but the company in a statement said, "We have filed this complaint for declaratory relief to ask the court to confirm that we do not infringe on this patent."

In the suit, Good claims that it informed RIM of its plans to enter the market for handheld e-mail devices and that RIM responded by presenting Good with a copy of its patent.

RIM has been active in protecting this patent before, settling a case with Glenayre Technologies just last year. In that case, Glenayre agreed that RIM's patents were valid.

Good Technology has about 1,000 subscribers to its software, according to a report from Goldman Sachs. In its latest financial report, RIM said its total number of BlackBerry subscribers increased by approximately 32,000, to about 321,000 total, during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002.

Harris said he expected RIM to countersue Good in the same court within the next 10 days. And while he was surprised that Good had not yet served RIM with the suit, he said the plaintiff has 90 days after filing to serve the defendant with the suit.