The Free Protocols Foundation (FPF) is a non-profit organization and independent public forum dedicated to the support of patent-free protocols and software. The FPF views software and protocol patents as being generally detrimental to the industry and the consumer, and part of the FPF mandate is to oppose exceptionally harmful patents when they appear. For more information see the FPF website at http://www.freeprotocols.org.
Research in Motion (RIM) has recently made a patent assertion which we regard as an egregious example of patent law abuse, and exceedingly harmful in its potential effects. The following is a statement of the FPF position regarding this patent, and our intended actions to oppose it.
Research in Motion (RIM) is a Canadian wireless technology company based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Among other things RIM manufactures and licenses BlackBerry, a popular wireless handheld e-mail device. BlackBerry is a closed, single-vendor e-mail system, based on a set of proprietary protocols. For details see the BlackBerry website at http://www.blackberry.net.
In April 2001 RIM was granted U.S. Patent # 6,219,694, entitled System and method for pushing information from a host system to a
mobile data communication device having a shared electronic
address. The complete text of the patent is available at the FPF
website; to view the patent in PDF format visit
The patent describes a method of directing e-mail to wireless devices, while maintaining mailbox synchronization with a desktop e-mail system. The described method is a basic element of the functioning of various existing mobile e-mail systems, including the BlackBerry system.
RIM has been quick to cash in on this patent. Less than a month after the patent was granted, RIM announced that it is suing Glenayre Electronics, Inc. for infringement against the patent. To view an article describing this patent assertion, visit http://www.totaltele.com/view.asp?ArticleID=40057&pub=tt&categoryid=625. The same article is also available on the FPF website at http://www.freeprotocols.org/rimBBPatentProblem/extNews2.html.
The Free Protocols Foundation views the RIM patent assertion as an extreme example of patent-law abuse. This is because:
The patent is particularly noxious because of the very large scope of its claims. Note that mobile e-mail is not simply another generic product or service - it is an extremely large-scale interconnected system, whose functioning is of profound importance to business and society. It is inappropriate and dangerous for any one company to have exclusive control over something of such enormous scope and significance.
Yet this patent purports to provide RIM with precisely this control. RIM's patent claim is so broad and general that if it remains unchallenged, it will restrict a major class of mobile e-mail services to a single closed system under the exclusive control of RIM, to the severe detriment of the mobile e-mail industry and society at large.
The Free Protocols Foundation intends to participate in fighting strenously against this patent by means of the following activities:
Those whose interests are being injured by the patent will certainly wish to challenge it. A key element of this challenge will be to demonstrate that the patent is invalid on the basis of prior art. We believe that ample prior art exists which will show clearly that the patent is based on ideas which have been previously known, subjected to public discussion, and implemented.
The basic requirement is to identify and make public the appropriate prior art. The Free Protocols Foundation is assisting in this effort by providing a public forum for discussion and commentary, and by acting as a central clearing house for information relating to the patent.
For this purpose the FPF has established and is hosting the public
RIMemail@example.com. Any company, organization or individual may participate in this effort by submitting commentary or information to this mailing list. To join this mailing list, visit
The following is a list of known development activities, each of which predates the RIM patent, and in which the same processes as represented in the patent claims were put into practical implementation. The documentation and discussion records relating to these activities are therefore extremely likely to yield appropriate examples of prior art:
The role of the Free Protocols Foundation consists primarily of the assistance and facilitation role described above. We invite and encourage other interested parties to identify specific examples of prior art by researching the archival records relating to the above activities. We especially request and encourage the original participants in those activities to step forward and assert their prior implementations of the RIM patent claims.
In general, the Free Protocols Foundation supports legal challenges to software patents by providing its technical expertise regarding patent issues to companies who may be challenging patents in the courts.
In the present case, the FPF is ready to lend its support to Glenayre or any other company that mounts a legal challenge/defense against the RIM patent. Any company or organization wishing to avail itself of this assistance should contact the FPF directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(However this should not be construed as a general endorsement by the
FPF of Glenayre or any other company. Indeed, we note that when it
comes to patents Glenayre is no angel either, and has previously filed
its own patent infringment suit against RIM. An article describing the
Glenayre patent assertion is available at
http://www.garywill.com/waterloo/ctt9908.htm; the same article is also available on the FPF website at
The same mobile e-mail functionality as BlackBerry can be implemented in the form of a completely open system, based on existing technologies and protocols. This open equivalent to BlackBerry is called the WhiteBerry mobile messaging solution.
The WhiteBerry solution is based on a set of patent-free mobile messaging protocols called the LEAP protocols. Under the WhiteBerry solution, mobile messaging functionality is provided by a multi-vendor series of products and services, and the necessary industry-wide interoperability is guaranteed by the openness and integrity of the underlying protocols. For more information on the LEAP protocols see the LEAP Forum website at http://www.LeapForum.org.
A complete description of the WhiteBerry solution is provided in a
white paper entitled Operation WhiteBerry. Operation
WhiteBerry was written prior to, and is independent of, the emergence
of the RIM patent issue. It was first published and remains available
on the LEAP Forum website at
One of the general strategies by which the FPF opposes patented software is by supporting patent-free alternatives. Since Operation WhiteBerry describes an open, patent-free alternative to the patented BlackBerry system, it is directly aligned with this strategy. This paper is also fully consistent with FPF goals, and with the FPF Policies & Procedures described at http://www.freeprotocols.org/freeProtocolProcess/main.html.
We therefore endorse this paper fully, and are pleased to re-publish
it on our own website at
http://www.freeprotocols.org/operationWhiteberry/index.html. We encourage anyone who wishes to avoid the RIM patent issue to read this paper and participate in the WhiteBerry implementation.
The WhiteBerry solution is radically different from the BlackBerry system. WhiteBerry is not a single static messaging solution; rather, it is a highly mutable meta-solution. That is, any particular WhiteBerry implementation is created by integrating together an appropriate set of components, so as to achieve the particular functionality desired by the systems integrator or the end user.
The components that go into any given WhiteBerry implementation may be drawn from a large family of components which includes the EMSD protocol engines, FetchMail, ProcMail, mail forwarders, and various others. Each of these components is independent, freely available, useful in its own right, and entirely unrelated to the RIM patent.
Because of this inherently component-based nature, the WhiteBerry solution is exceedingly resistant to the RIM patent claim, and indeed to patent infringement claims in general. By making all the necessary components freely and publicly available, WhiteBerry provides systems integrators and end users with a variety of methods and strategies to circumvent or nullify invalid patent assertions.
Patent # 6,219,694 is a blatant attempt by RIM to lay exclusive claim to the entire mobile e-mail industry. The patent is fundamentally invalid, and cannot withstand technical scrutiny or legal challenge. The lawsuit against Glenayre, and the effort that the industry must now undertake to overturn the patent, are a huge waste of time and energy. In the meantime RIM's patent assertion can only be detrimental to the mobile e-mail industry, by inhibiting free and fair competition, and by depriving the end-user of the benefits thereof.
It is in everyone's interest for RIM to cease and desist in this patent assertion. We therefore urge RIM to do the right thing: abandon their current attempt to assert this patent, and renounce all future attempts.
If other measures fail to have the desired effect, and if RIM's continued prosecution of its patent assertion begins to cause damage to the mobile e-mail industry, then the FPF intends to organize and encourage a consumer boycott of RIM's BlackBerry product.
The Free Protocols Foundation is a U.S. tax-exempt non-profit organization, and any contributions made to the FPF are tax deductible in accordance with Internal Revenue Service regulations. Any organization or individual wishing to support the goals of the FPF is requested to make an appropriate donation. Monetary contributions may be mailed to the FPF at:
Free Protocols Foundation
17005 SE 31st Place
Bellevue, WA 98008
If you wish your contribution to be used solely for the purpose of opposing the RIM patent, please mark your contribution with the annotation RIM-6219694.