Monday, October 10, 2005

BlackBerry not dead yet

This story had me scratching my head all day. The New York Times reported on Friday,
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington rejected a request by Research in Motion, the Canadian company that makes the BlackBerry, to rehear its appeal of a patent infringement case brought by NTP Inc., the patent holder. A three-judge panel of the court ruled in August that Research in Motion had violated seven of NTP's patents.

As part of that litigation, NTP, whose only assets are wireless e-mail related patents, had been granted an injunction banning the sale of BlackBerry devices in the United States and forcing Research in Motion to stop providing e-mail services to all American customers except government account holders.

The story is alarming, but RIM is still providing wireless email at least to my firm. I looked for some more information and found this comment at posted on the same story at Engadget:
Posted Oct 8, 2005, 6:09 PM ET by Todd

Appeals courts only look at the issue directly before them - in this case, a jurisdiction issue. They don't hear evidence from witnesses and such like the district courts on Law & Order do - it's just a bunch of lawyers arguing boring matters from epically long (and misnamed) "briefs." RIM will have to argue the invalidation issue back in the district court, but this whole mess won't be settled until NTP exhausts its appeals on the invalidation issue. It will be years (or at a minimum, many months) before this is over, and I can't imagine a court would grant a temporary injuction barring RIM from selling Crackberries during that time. , as it would destroy RIM and there isn't much downside to NTP (which would be happy just to get money out of this).

I wonder if I could put this into a Schoolhouse Rock format and sell it on CD. Any takers?

So it would appears this case goes back to the lower court and RIM will continue to send and receive wireless email. The issue if far from dead, but it is worth watching.

Slashdot coverage is here.

Update USA Today reports:
The dismissal of RIM's petition by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit does not have any effect on separate proceedings by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That agency has now issued preliminary rejections of the five NTP patents that RIM was found to have violated in the jury trial. The most recent of those patent office decisions came last week.

It is unclear what impact Friday's development might have on settlement negotiations between RIM and NTP, which broke down over the summer after a preliminary deal was reached that called for a $450 million payment to NTP.

NTP said in a statement that the appeals court ruling means the case will go back to a lower court for "re-confirmation" of an injunction that would shut down the BlackBerry service in the United States.

The injunction, granted in 2003, had been stayed by the lower court judge pending the appeal process. An NTP lawyer said the firm would move quickly to get the case back before the lower court and ask for an injunction.

RIM said in a statement Friday that if the Supreme Court doesn't take the case, the company expects the trial court's final ruling will reflect both the patent office proceedings and the preliminary settlement.

All appears well for now. We will have to see if the Supreme Court takes RIM's appears, but it doesn't look like there will be any halt to the wireless email services provided by RIM.


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