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RIM reveals workaround for BlackBerry

Feb 09, 20063 mins
LegalNetwork Security

Research In Motion Thursday announced that it has developed and tested software that would enable it to continue to offer its wireless e-mail service to BlackBerry users if a court orders RIM to shut down the current form of the service in the U.S.

The workaround has been the subject of much speculation because RIM had said it was developing such software but had been reluctant to describe how the new system would work. Now RIM says it has tested the software, which will ship on BlackBerry devices going forward and can be downloaded by current users. The software will support the service as it currently works but it won’t rely on technologies based on patents held by NTP, the company with which RIM is involved in a lengthy legal battle.

Too little, too late? That’s what one wireless blogger calls the move. Discuss.  

A court recently ruled that RIM had infringed on NTP patents. However, in an unusual turn of events, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has preliminarily ruled that all of the relevant NTP patents are invalid. Until the USPTO makes final judgments on those patents, though, the court battle continues. That includes a ruling that could force RIM to turn off its service in the U.S. In late February, a judge is expected to decide if RIM should be ordered to shut down its service based on a request from NTP.

RIM said it still believes there’s a good chance the judge won’t order the service shut off but that it developed the workaround as a contingency plan.

RIM has filed a patent application for the workaround software, which it said offers the same functions and performance as the existing service but doesn’t use technology described in NTP’s patents.

RIM will soon begin to include the new software on new devices, which will run on the existing software platform unless RIM is ordered to shut down its service. In that case, RIM can remotely activate the workaround software from its network operations center.

If RIM is ordered to shut down its service and if that order applies to existing users, RIM will post the new software on a Web site where it can be downloaded and implemented.

The legal battle between RIM and NTP has been closely watched by IT departments, especially those that support the wireless e-mail service for executives. Some analysts have advised IT departments to create their own contingency plans in case the RIM service is shut down. The situation has spurred a feeding frenzy of sorts among other push e-mail providers that are keen to step in where RIM could leave a void. Companies including Visto, Good Technology, Microsoft, DataViz and Nokia are among the businesses offering push e-mail.


Nancy Gohring is a freelance journalist who started writing about mobile phones just in time to cover the transition to digital. She's written about PCs from Hanover, cellular networks from Singapore, wireless standards from Cyprus, cloud computing from Seattle and just about any technology subject you can think of from Las Vegas. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Computerworld, Wired, the Seattle Times and other well-respected publications.

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