Content may want to be free, but intellectual property wants anything but. That's my conclusion after reading this Reuters story, which reports that Blackberry maker Research In Motion has reopened its patent dispute with NTP Inc. after failing to complete a $450 million settlement. Investors, who thought the dispute had been settled in March, now fear that NTP could actually force RIM to stop offering Blackberry service in the U.S., which represents, oh, only 75 percent of its business.
I'm guessing the two sides will resolve their differences before it comes to that. But no matter what happens, the case highlights — for those who still need it highlighted — the growing importance of what I like to call "invisible software," the device code that keeps everything from airliners to, well, Blackberries humming along. Patents are a powerful, if expensive way to protect device software. My bet: Look for more such cases in the future.