RIM’s been fending off pressure from shareholders to get their ass in gear with new products, but it looks like the BlackBerry-maker will have another kind of legal battle to deal with. Audio giant Dolby has launched into patent litigation that seeks monetary compensation from Research In Motion, and a halt on BlackBerry sales in the U.S. and Germany. The patents in question deal with compression technology that lets you listen to high-quality tunes with limited wireless bandwidth and storage space. Dolby claims that they’ve already had discussions with RIM, but they’ve been unwilling to pay licensing fees like other mobile manufacturers.
While it’s easy to brush off threats like halting the sales of BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, RIM was stung hard in a patent dispute with a company called NTP a long time ago, and I doubt they want to recreate that experience. The last big patent battle RIM had to deal with was versus Kodak, though Apple has been embroiled in that mess too. I’m pretty sure that’s still ongoing after over a year, and this Dolby battle stands to last just as long.
Compression is a big deal, especially for RIM which prides itself on the efficiency of their BlackBerry lineup. Streaming audio can be a big battery drain if not handled properly, and considering the growing popularity of services along that vein, I could see this technology being fairly important to them. However, it does sound like the kind of thing RIM would have invested a lot of their own R&D dollars into, independent of Dolby. Compression in local storage is becoming less of an issue as higher-capacity microSD cards are enabling bigger music files to be stored locally, but maybe someday we’ll make the jump to FLAC as a common standard, which could make these compression technologies important again.