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Inside the BlackBerry Workaround 101

Posted by Zonk
from the what's-with-the-string-and-the-cans? dept.
pillageplunder writes "Businessweek has a pretty good FAQ-style article on the proposed workaround that RIM would implement if a judge upholds an injunction." From the article: "It would work by changing the part of the network where e-mails are stored. Right now, when someone is out of wireless coverage range and can't immediately get e-mail access, RIM's service stores incoming messages on computers at one of its two network operations centers, or NOCs. When you come back into coverage range, those e-mails are forwarded to you automatically. "
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Inside the BlackBerry Workaround

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  • Is RIM hoping to invent around and get off the hook by invoking the Rule of Equivalents with the PTO?
    • In my understanding, the rule of equivalents meant that an item could infringe on a patent if it was even remotely equivalent.

      But this is no longer valid, see this article. [eet.com]
      • The Equivalents Doctrines prevent simple substitutions in products as a way of defeating patent protection (subbing Magnesium for Manganese for example.) I think, however, that one of the principles under the Equivalents Doctrines state that if a product has LESS functionality than a patent it does not infringe. It seems likely that RIM will invent a SUBSET of it's orginal functionality and then claim that it doesn't infringe under the Rule of Equivalents.
  • by lordkuri (514498) on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:00PM (#14687752)
    I'm kind of confused. Why would RIM not store the emails at the blackberry server to begin with? Surely that would have been less resource intensive on their part, and more comfortable to clients in regards to security.

    Someone who knows more about this care to clue me in?
    • by arivanov (12034) on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:06PM (#14687819) Homepage
      This will mean the blackberry server talking to the operator which in practice means the customer talking to the operator. The operators will not like it.

      The main reason for BB success is the fact that RIM talks to the operator, not the customer. As a result the operators have considerably less security hassle and most importantly no billing disputes. So no matter how much they dislike RIM they prefer to deal with them.

      While at it, I have always asked myself the question - is the encryption end-to-end or the messages are stored at RIM unencrypted. Or what are the possibilities for RIM to successfully escrow a key? After all all registration, pins, etc goes through it... All of the governmentcritter email in cleartext (or easily decryptable)... Interesting thought...
       
      • What's an operator?

        Can't RIM just leave their machines at the NOC and have them forward the email requests to the central server rather than storing the email? That should require no change in the user devices either, which would be the big pain for the consumers under any fix.
        • When you get a Blackberry, you don't get it just from RIM.

          RIM makes the devices themselves, but not the networks that they access. If you wanted to get a BB today, you'd go down to your local cellphone company of choice (well, of the ones that support the device you want to buy), and buy the handset and service from them. You might be able to buy the BlackBerry itself separately, but you're still going to need to go to a cell phone company to get service.

          So you go to TMobile or whatever. They are the "opera
      • Yes, messages are encrypted end-to-end. RIM can't (easily*) decrypt mail in their system, because the encryption is based on a security key unique to each device and stored on the customers' BES.

        * I say easily, because given the time and CPU cycles, any encryption algorithm is theorhetically crackable
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I can't say about the Blackberry, but they are probably like Good Inc.; and that I can speak about.

        Don't count on the messages being secure. I interviewed there once, and spoke with the guy who was handling the security. He impressed me as your typical wanna-be; familiar with the standard tools, but not familiar with attack techniques. You know, the typical slap-it-together-to-meet-the-buzzwords approach.

        Anyone who thinks their messages here are secure is deluding themselves.

        As far as the interview we

      • by Anonymous Coward
        RIM uses authenticated Diffie-Hellman key exchange, which is designed specifically to allow the key exchange data to be 'in the clear' and not be compromised. The older (pre 4.0) devices required a cradle or cable connection to exchange keys.

        The RIM NOC has no idea what the keys are, and cannot see that data even if it is sitting in their NOC.
      • This will mean the blackberry server talking to the operator which in practice means the customer talking to the operator. The operators will not like it.

        This all seems silly to me. Just have the operator give the handheld an IP address and establish an IMAPS connection using the IDLE construct and LDAPS if you need contacts. CalDAV over SSL should be here RSN.

        Nobody has a personal Blackberry - they're all reading corporate e-mail, so they don't need a e-mail account from anybody but work.

        But I guess that
    • True but then there would be a security issue. Right now RIM Controls the passage of messages around there network from the ground up. This makes them vary secure or just one big central target. Ether way they have control.

      With this new system the messages are going to be waiting on a 3erd part system.

      Now say I a some paranoid Government agency would I
      A) have my messages stored at random server around the world
      or
      B) have them stored at on secure location where I can have them halted if need be?
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:09PM (#14687837)
    Right now, when someone is out of wireless coverage range and can't immediately get e-mail access, RIM's service stores incoming messages on computers at one of its two network operations centers, or NOCs. When you come back into coverage range, those e-mails are forwarded to you automatically.
    Under the workaround, these waiting e-mails would be stored somewhere else -- on the servers that sit behind the firewall of a company or carrier network. A large part of the infringement of the NTP patents is based on the e-mails being stored at the NOC, analysts say.


    They could have just renamed or recreated the NOC as something else like, 'HELL' - the Humongous Email Limbo Lockup.
    This way, when NTP asks them how they did it, they can simply say 'Go to HELL.'
  • Explain this please (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:10PM (#14687849)
    RIM is asking the court not to impose an injunction on devices that have already been sold. The Canadian company argues that it already has an implied license with NTP on these devices, and so they shouldn't be covered by an injunction.

    The reason: A jury found RIM guilty of infringing on NTP's licenses in 2002. RIM lost its bid to overturn that verdict. So, even if the Patent Office throws out NTP's patents, RIM still has to pay royalties for the time up until the patents are overturned.

    Okay, if RIM is:

    1: Having to pay royalties still on every unit sold.
    2: Has a workaround to avoid the patent they are paying royalties on.
    3: Says there's no difference to the end-user to use this workaround.
    4: Says all new *ackBerries have the new code in them already.

    Then why haven't they rolled out this workaround already ASAP. It would:

    1: Make any court injunction moot.
    2: Reduce the number of units that they owe royalties on.

    Methinks there's more to this that's not being told yet.

    • Maybe it's just one of those "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" scenarios. Maybe they don't want to switch to their backup plan just yet because it's not going to be as smooth as they claim, and since the current system works rather well, why not fight to keep it.
    • I would hazard the difference to be at the carrier.

      All the talk of moving emails onto the carriers' network mean extra hardware for them (rather than just data transit)

      RIM -> Carrier -> User

      How would this affect roaming and multiple carriers, would a user connecting to a foreign carrier have to ping RIM who will have to check the mail on the carriers' system and upload the mail back to them?

      If thats the case, I would imagine the carriers aren't going to be totally happy knowing that they are storing t
      • I would get the impression that the carrier storing the e-mails would be the 'home' carrier for the blackberry user.

        When the user goes within range, it will ping it's home carrier to request the e-mails.
    • by dpilot (134227)
      It might look like admission of guilt, and thereby affect the court/patent cases?
    • The end-users still have to update the software on servers and perhaps individual workstations in order to implement the workaround. RIM is bettting everything on winning the litigation. If they lose and have to pay damages, the fines they could have avoided by implenting the workaround now is miniscule in comparison. Therefore, they have chosen not to burden their users until it is absolutely necessary.
      • Yep. As far as I know, there's no way to push software updates to a Blackberry over the wireless network. So if the company I work for needs to do this, all of them across the country will have to be brought in to the nearest location with an IT tech.

        The people who have Blackberries at the company I work for tend to be execs, or at least high-level businesspeople who are frequently on trips to other cities, so this will be a noticeable hassle for them.
    • While I'm sure there are things that aren't being told, there are still fairly clear reasons for them to not implement this fix unless it's absolutely necessary.

      In order for it to work, both the clients and the servers need to be updated with a patch. This is a manual process. If they say "roll it out now!" then all of a sudden, everyone who uses a blackberry is suddenly cut off until they AND their local server have applied a patch. And realize, the average blackberry user is at the executive level, and no
    • They are stringing this out as long as they can. The patent will expire in a few more years.
    • Then why haven't they rolled out this workaround already ASAP.

      Thats exactly what I thought. My guess would be that there is no workaround and that they are just using bully/scare tactics to push NTP around. I mean, why chose to pay royalties when you can just apply a workaround and save alot of dough? Seems odd.
      • Wow, it's almost as if you are commenting on a case that you haven't read anything about.

        RIM could have saved tons of money by just paying of NTP in the first place, but it was RIM that refused to be bullied by NTP, and have vowed to fight it to the end, no matter the cost. NTP are bullies here, and RIM will refuse to bow to them.
    • Exactly. Something's amiss.

      I'm more concerned about this: BusinessWeek missed the important part of what RIM isn't saying: RIM mentions changes to "message queuing" and "message delivery." Businessweek pulled parts of the "queuing" explanation from the RIM whitepaper verbatim, but makes no mention of the "delivery" changes that RIM alludes to.

      "Delivery" could get to the heart of the "push" technology.

      http://www.blackberry.com/select/mme/pdfs/mme_over view.pdf [blackberry.com]
  • Text Messaging? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cloudscout (104011) on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:11PM (#14687857) Homepage
    Maybe I'm completely missing the boat here, but I recall when I got my first cellphone capable of receiving text messages 10 years ago that those messages would be queued up on the carrier's servers until I turned my phone on or was in signal range. Would that not be prior art?
    • I recall when I got my first cellphone capable of receiving text messages 10 years ago
      that those messages would be queued up on the carrier's servers until...in signal range

      To me, the non-legal issue is whether the Blackberry would have even come to market had
      it always used the workaround (ie. unworkable, too expensive, infrastructure not scalable)

      Maybe someone can otherwise point out a history lesson here, but the Blackberry success
      always seemed to be simplicity, well-executed ... not some technologica

    • Well yes. It is prior art.

      Prior art that NTP holds a patent on.

    • NTP's patents are based on work that was begun in the late 80's [com.com]. While I have no love for patents, these seem valid within the context of our current patent system.
    • Re:Text Messaging? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dgatwood (11270)
      Maybe I'm completely missing something here, but how is this substantially different from the U.S. Postal Service queueing up my mail when I go on vacation? We have three parties---the postal service (RIM), the carrier (T-Mobile), and the customer (me). If the carrier sees mail building up in my box unread, he/she could assume that I'm not in the area and take it back to the post office. I've seen this happen in smaller communities where folks actually know their postal workers....

      Effectively, by check

  • Good example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slackaddict (950042) <rmorganNO@SPAMopenaddict.com> on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:13PM (#14687875) Homepage Journal
    This is a good example of why you should not put all of your eggs in one basket. The US Federal Goverment uses Blackberries and this is a response to their mandate that no matter what happens to RIM over this patent dispute, Senators still need their Blackberries to work. Given other communication forms out there, I think it would be better for companies and governments to diversify or use an open standard for communication rather than relying on a single, vulnerable source for all of their commo needs.

    • Come again? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rjstanford (69735)
      There really is no competitor to the BlackBerry when it comes to a complete solution. I realize that its trendy to be dismissive, but if you haven't at least played around with one, don't knock it until you do. If there was a true OSS or even standards-based alternative, that would be one thing - but there isn't. And the Feds really shouldn't be spending tons of money to develop solutions rather than buying COTS packages that work.

      I'd love to see someone come up with a true competitor to the Blackberry.
      • There really is no competitor to the BlackBerry when it comes to a complete solution. I realize that its trendy to be dismissive, but if you haven't at least played around with one, don't knock it until you do. If there was a true OSS or even standards-based alternative, that would be one thing - but there isn't.

        Of course there is. What does a Blackberry do that something like a Treo with an IMAP client and web browser built into it can't do? I've seen my coworker's Blackberry and I'm not very impressed

        • Well, it's tricky. Your argument about the Treo is a little off-beam - there is a big difference between a push e-mail device and a pull device; of course for many, including me, that difference is the reason we don't want one!

          Well, in my case it's also that I'm the messaging admin so I don't want to have to deploy enterprise server.

          But of course with some work you can make any modern smartphone do push e-mail.

          I think the selling point of the crackberry has always been that it works out of the box.

          With othe
          • I think the selling point of the crackberry has always been that it works out of the box.

            But how many companies were executives are using Blackberries *don't* have an existing e-mail infrastructure in place? I imagine it's probably not very many. I guess I just don't understand the big deal between getting your mail "pushed" to you vs. just having your PDA/phone/whatever periodically polling for new mail from your company's mail server. This all seems to be much ado about nothing.

        • Of course there is. What does a Blackberry do that something like a Treo with an IMAP client and web browser built into it can't do? I've seen my coworker's Blackberry and I'm not very impressed with it. He has to have his mail pulled by RIM from his IMAP servers and then pushed to his device. That seems like an unnecessary extra step IMHO.

          And entering email on your PDA is easier than on the berry? Not in my experience. Besides, I think your message is right on. There are certainly more technically eleg
    • Re:Good example (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Emetophobe (878584)
      This is a good example of why you should not put all of your eggs in one basket. The US Federal Goverment uses Blackberries and this is a response to their mandate that no matter what happens to RIM over this patent dispute, Senators still need their Blackberries to work. Given other communication forms out there, I think it would be better for companies and governments to diversify or use an open standard for communication rather than relying on a single, vulnerable source for all of their commo needs. Th
  • Maybe I'm dense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelKaiserProScri (691448) on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:52PM (#14688270)
    How does what RIM is doing infringe on NTP's patent, but POP3 or IMAP does not? If you send me an e-mail and my laptop is "out of range", that is "off" or "not in range of a 802.11 gateway" it goes to my mail server and waits there until I log on. Then I retrieve the buffered messages and display them on my "wireless device".
    • Re:Maybe I'm dense (Score:2, Insightful)

      by witwerg (26651)
      IANAL, but one could argue that because the NIP stuff involves a PUSH delivery mechanism (if I understand everytihng correctly) to clients, POP is definitely not infringing(all PULL), and I don't think that IMAP would, (I don't recall pushed updates to client but it is possible). But otherstuff like certian RPC mail protocols really do push stuff out, IIRC (maybe just the headers though). so The REAL question is why doesn't _exchange_ infringe :-D.
      • PUSH -- you mean like an MTA connecting to port 25 of a remote mail host, saying "hey, I have some mail for your user" -- or if the remote mail host is down, queueing it for later delivery?

        it's not like PINE users ever had to go poll every SMTP server in the universe to find out if they had new mail. the only thing "PUSH" about this is that it's in the last-mile delivery rather than the second-to-last-mile. this is so far beyond obvious that it's absurd.

      • The REAL question is why doesn't _exchange_ infringe

        Because you can't use extortion tactics against Microsoft.

    • Re:Maybe I'm dense (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jrumney (197329) on Friday February 10, 2006 @01:24PM (#14688549) Homepage
      It is different because the email is not stored on a standards based IMAP or POP server, it is stored on RIM's server which talks to your Blackberry using a proprietary protocol, and to your corporate email server using a proprietary plugin which works only on Exchange. RIM's protocol and server add the important feature of "lock-in" to the system. Yes, you could do it all with SMTP and IMAP, but "Blackberry and Exchange" sounds a lot more user friendly to the people who make purchasing decisions than "IMAP and SMTP".
    • Actually, from what little I understand of the RIM system, it seems no different from the way that SMTP, or Simple Mail Transportation Protocol works. If I send an email to x@domain.com, it first of all goes to my local SMTP server, which then tries to connect to the mail server defined in the MX (Mail eXchanger) record for domain.com. If, for some reason, it can't get through, it stores the message, and keeps on trying (for a mail admin defined number of times) until it reaches the mail system on domain.co
    • Here's an idea:

      We could write our messages down on paper and pay a bunch of people with psycotic tendencies to run around and deliver them to each us.

      If they can find us and hand us the "en-vel-opes" (we'll call them), Done! Message delivered, no patent violation! It would clearly be a problem if we just had these people like, leave them in a nearby box or something for us. So, instead, until they find the actual hand of the recipient of the "en-vel-opes", they can just take the messages back to th

    • POP3 and IMAP are not wireless communcation systems, which is what the patent describes.
      • POP3 and IMAP are wireless communication systems when they are used from my laptop connected via 802.11G!!!

        Quick lesson on the OSI layers. POP3, IMAP, and the protocol RIM are using are all LAYER 7 stuff, Application layer. The fact that a network is wireless, fiber, ethernet, or carried by pigeon is a LAYER 1 thing... The RIM protocol is not inherently wireless. It's just a scheme for encoding and distributing bits. Those bits happen to be carried by a wireless network, but they could just as well b

        • ... or a ham radio. This is something that the amateur radio folks have been doing for some time now. Much of this is based on store and forward technology (anyone remember uucp).

          Prior art, perhaps?

        • Yeah, you're right. I'm aware of the OSI levels, I was just told that the patent was such-and-such wireless ("wireless" specifically appearing in the patent). I just read a copy of it, and sure enough, no wireless, so never mind my post.
  • Some people have said that a patent holder should have to be actively developing a patent for it to be valid. I don't think this is the case. A patent protects the idea/plan/mechanism, and patenting your product and then never building the product is fine, you are more than welcome to make your income by licensing out use of your idea. The company should however have to actively protect the patent, like a trademark. If a company patents something and hides it in a drawer until a handfull of fortune 500
    • If a company patents something and hides it in a drawer until a handfull of fortune 500 companies are using it, then whips it out for a lawsuit, the patent should be invalidated.
      I don't think it should be invalidated, but I think that failing to enforce it for a specific application should create a tacit liscence for that application. That way if someone comes along with an improved version, you can still enforce you valid patent on that usage.
      IE:
      1) create novel method for no loss compressing the wikip
      • The problem with requiring enforcement is that you have to prove when the patent holder knew there was something infringing. Just because I suspect RIM has violated my patent does not mean I have enough grounds to enforce it.
        • The problem with requiring enforcement is that you have to prove when the patent holder knew there was something infringing. Just because I suspect RIM has violated my patent does not mean I have enough grounds to enforce it.
          Not really, I file with the govt & courts saying I believe RIM is violating my patent number 12345 subsection 5 because their product does [this]. I have just attempted to enforce my patent. Even if I am wrong, I have shown I intend to regulate the usage of my patented idea.
    • why would you want protection on a plan/etc for something you won't implement?
    • Some people have said that a patent holder should have to be actively developing a patent for it to be valid. I don't think this is the case. A patent protects the idea/plan/mechanism, and patenting your product and then never building the product is fine

      I disagree completely. I think you need to at least have enough research and development behind a patent to demonstrate that the idea your patenting works. At the very least, that there is supporting evidence that the concept of your patent works.

      In your
  • by Chemisor (97276) on Friday February 10, 2006 @01:32PM (#14688606)
    In another stunning example, the patent office is once again proven to be not the receptacle of revolutionary ideas or the catalyst of innovation, but rather the repository of ideas nobody is allowed to think any more. Or needs to.
  • If I read some of the posts and the junk surounding this issue. The big problem is that RIM holds the mail and pushes it as soon as you log back into the network.
    If that's the case, just change it and have the BB specifically request the mail.
    Current:
    BB: Hello I'm back.
    RIM: That's nice, here's your mail.

    Non infringing:

    BB: Hello I'm back, can I have my mail.
    RIM: That's nice, here's your mail.
    From what I saw of the workaround blurb, RIM is just going to store it offsite and then request it back so
    • By the way, IMO, if either of these things circumvent the patent then it's less useful than an equivalent weight of toilet paper.

      Less useful, except of course for past monetary damages running at least back to 2001, which should fit well within the multi-million dollar range.
  • Its amazing how these patents work out on paper. Reading patents a while back while researching I could swear that a dozen different patents were the same damn thing. If RIM gets their work around its likely to end up being hundreds of millions of dollars in modifications all for a line of text no longer than my slashdot post inserted into a half dozen different places in one patent that looks 99% like NTP's. Thats got to be at least a million bucks per character.
  • Basically - if their NOC shuts down due to power (or backup) failure, virus infestation etc. the entire world's population of CrapBerries is dead in the water. Even with a backup NOC, there are about 5 million units worldwide that route through the Waterloo NOC and rely on it's monitoring their status, so they can "push". At least with this workaround (ahem, subterfuge) there will be other storage locations to store the messages, but also many new points of failure. Presumably the NOC must still tell the re
  • IMO RIM is a vile corporation and a blight on society. We would all be better off without these obtrusive devices cluttering up our lives. I firmly stand behind NTP and favor a shutdown of all service inside the U.S. Write to your congressmen and let them now how you feel about this despicable undesirable corporate tick.

When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder. -- James H. Boren

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