• United States
Senior Editor

RIM, BlackBerry users win reprieve for now

Feb 27, 20063 mins
Network Security

In perhaps the industry’s biggest anticlimax so far this year, a U.S. District Court judge ended Friday’s hearing on the Research in Motion vs. NTP patent battle without deciding much.

Judge James Spencer did not rule on NTP’s request that he issue an updated $126 million judgment as soon as possible, or on reinstating an injunction to block RIM’s BlackBerry service in the United States.

Spencer said he would take the matter under advisement and that he expected to rule first on the damages award. A jury trial found in 2002 that RIM, a Canadian company, had infringed on U.S. patents issued to an NTP founder. NTP is seeking damages and a royalty agreement from RIM, which has fought a delaying action since persuading the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine the patents.

RIM posted a brief statement Friday on its Web site that it had received that day a copy of yet another final ruling by the Patent Office that rejects all the claims associated with the third, and according to RIM, final NTP patent. Earlier last week, the Patent Office issued a final action on another NTP patent. NTP can appeal these actions to a Patent Office board, and if unable to overturn them there, try to do so via federal courts.

Following the hearing, RIM co-chief executive Jim Balsillie was defiant in an interview with CNBC, according to the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail.

“Fundamentally for Research in Motion, settlement has never been an option,” Balsillie was quoted. “Until they [NTP] change their tactics, it remains not an option. So we have to plan our life understanding that we go ahead with the workaround [software], that we incur the cost of the workaround. It’s far less than any settlement cost.”

RIM recently announced a few sketchy details of new software that the company says will allow U.S. customers to continue using the service, without using the technology covered by the NTP patents.

Last week, on the eve of the hearing, NTP issued a press release charging that RIM was guilty of “numerous mischaracterizations” about the validity of the NTP patents. NTP argues that the courts have repeatedly upheld the validity of the patents, either by verdict and ruling or by declining to review or overturn lower court findings. NTP also asserts that the current review by the Patent Office is part of a lengthy “re-examination process” that includes internal appeals and federal court appeals.

But more inflammatory is NTP’s assertion in the release that RIM used “lobbyists and political connections to exert political influence to have the [U.S. Patent Office] re-examine NTP’s patents.”

The company says the documents, which have not been made available publicly, reveal that there were previously undisclosed communications between RIM’s lobbyists and the Patent Office. One of the lobbyists, NTP says, is former PTO official David Stewart. The statement also says the Canadian embassy “sought to find a means” for the Canadian government to “exert pressure” on the Patent Office. RIM is headquartered in Canada.

NTP also says documents reveal that, after losing its appeal in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, RIM had undisclosed meetings with Patent Office officials even though the office’s regulations “expressly forbid such meetings.” The statement asserts that requesting a patent re-examination after losing a jury verdict is “plainly prohibited” by U.S. law, namely the U.S. Patent Act, Section 317 in Title 35 of the United States Code.

NTP’s public relations agency did not respond by press time to a request for copies of these documents.

Senior Editor

I cover wireless networking and mobile computing, especially for the enterprise; topics include (and these are specific to wireless/mobile): security, network management, mobile device management, smartphones and tablets, mobile operating systems (iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10), BYOD (bring your own device), Wi-Fi and wireless LANs (WLANs), mobile carrier services for enterprise/business customers, mobile applications including software development and HTML 5, mobile browsers, etc; primary beat companies are Apple, Microsoft for Windows Phone and tablet/mobile Windows 8, and RIM. Preferred contact mode: email.

More from this author