As if Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) didn't already have it bad enough, NXP Semiconductors (Nasdaq: NXPI ) has sued the BlackBerry maker for infringing on six patents. You've probably already seen the story, which broke last week. (Find the complaint here.)
What's interesting here isn't that there is a lawsuit. Too many tech titans are tussling over who owns what intellectual property. Some are just sad-emoticon silly. Others amount to the legal equivalent of trench warfare, with billions at stake in the outcome.
NXP's content claims amount to neither at this point. In its court filing, the company says it needs further study to determine damages. So why should we, as investors, care? Because NXP and RIM have competing views of the world of near-field communications (NFC). They were destined to clash.
Several BlackBerry smartphones have been rumored to embed NFC over the years. Today, certain BlackBerry Bold and Curve handsets use the technology. NXP is a specialist whose business is making NFC chips for Android and some Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) phones. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) calls the company a partner in enabling the pay-via-phone Google Wallet scheme that remains in its infancy. RIM doesn't use NXP chips in BlackBerry designs, choosing instead to go with France's Inside Secure.
So is NXP's suit an attempt to crowd out Inside Secure? Unlikely. Such a naked attempt at cornering the market for NFC technology would attract the eyes of regulators. My guess is that NXP, which, again, says it hasn't done enough study to figure damages, wants a closer look at RIM's deal with Inside Secure as a precursor to brokering a licensing arrangement for the patents assigned it by former parent Philips Electronics.
Think I'm right? Wrong? Either way, NFC is part of a broader movement in which NXP and Research In Motion play a small role. For more on the investing opportunity created by mobile innovations, I suggest this new Motley Fool special report: "The Next Trillion-Dollar Revolution." The research is free, but only for a limited time. Get your copy now.