On Nov. 14, Good Technology filed lawsuits against MobileIron and AirWatch over alleged infringement of four patents in the mobile device management (MDM) and related sectors. MobileIron also is accused of marketing violations. The suits were filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division.
Good clearly recognizes the importance of public relations in such affairs, and has set up a website that links to the complaints and other information. The company is claiming that MobileIron breached patents on its MDM, Appstore, Docs@Work, AppConnect and AppTunnel products. Good’s statement on the other target is less specific. It simply says that it “has made its AirWatch MDM and related products work by using our technology.”
There are a few points to keep in mind as this unfolds. The first is the most obvious: The progress of MDM is vitally important as bring-your-own-device and, more recently, bring-your own-app (BYOD and BYOA) techniques proliferate. Regardless of the legitimacy of Good’s claims, from IT’s perspective, it is a shame that at least some of the energy of the sector will be diverted into these and potential follow-on court fights.
The other point is that organizations looking at MDM platforms need to be very careful in their assessment of how the lawsuits fit in. Good should be asked, in simple terms, to explain the violations and the law. The company should be pressed to say what it will do if it wins in court in terms of licensing the technology to the other players. Outside experts should assess the suits and outline a range of likely outcomes. Good should be asked about the timing of the suits and the logical question of whether they are based on real grievances or aimed at gaining an advantage in the marketplace.
MobileIron and AirWatch should be asked to explain why the lawsuits are spurious and describe why their platforms are free and clear of technology developed by Good. They should describe a path forward in terms of building features and services on platforms that may be found to build on patents they are infringing. They also should describe what will happen if the litigation goes against them.
MDM was growing as the work force became more mobile. That growth clearly is accelerating as BYOD and BYOA take root. A logical question is whether Good’s goal is to protect its intellectual property or scare potential clients of the two other companies. That’s why a very good explanation — in clear, non-legal terms — must be demanded.
What Good posted in a blog is long on bravado and short on substance:
Unfortunately, two of our competitors, MobileIron and AirWatch are willfully, flagrantly, and improperly using the intellectual property that we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating and are simply putting their own name on it. MobileIron and AirWatch must cheat to appear competitive.
The question is that the stark truth of that statement assumes that two companies and the people who created them are dumb enough to bet their lives and careers on such a crass rip-off. Anything is possible, but such a clear-cut reality seems to be a stretch.
There was nothing about the suits on either the AirWatch or MobileIron websites as of 11 a.m. ET on Nov. 15. Clearly, somebody dropped the ball. The companies can’t pretend that the suits don’t exist, and the old “not dignifying it with a comment” approach won’t fly. Corporations, we learned this autumn, are people, my friend. And anyone being called a liar and a cheat wouldn’t wait until talking to their lawyer before reacting.