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November 30, 2005

Is time running out for BlackBerry?

A complete shut down of BlackBerry email service in the US came a step closer when a federal judge ruled that a proposed patent settlement isn't enforceable and rejected a request for a delay in the case.

By CBR Staff Writer

RIM asked for a delay in the case while the Patent and Trademark Office decides whether the NTP patents are valid. In denying the request, the judge said he plans to move this litigation forward so as to bring closure to this case.

Federal Judge James R. Spencer rejected Blackberry manufacturer Research In Motion’s argument that a March draft settlement with patent-holding company NTP was final. He refused to delay the suit and told lawyers to prepare arguments on blocking US BlackBerry service and on how much Research In Motion should pay NTP for infringing its patents.

Valid patents would be rendered meaningless if an infringing party were allowed to circumvent the patents’ enforcement by incessantly delaying and prolonging court proceedings, which have already resulted in a finding of infringement, Spencer said in his ruling from Richmond.

NTP co-founder Donald Stout said a decision on blocking service could come in weeks, since Spencer has said he wants the case to move quickly. It’s not like we want to shut RIM down, Stout said. The $450 million agreement broke down because the conditions that were attached to the payment of the money were totally unacceptable to us, he said.

RIM officials said in a statement the company maintains that an injunction is inappropriate given the specific facts of this case. The company said it is preparing changes to its software that it believes would work around the patent which it intends to implement if necessary to maintain the operation of BlackBerry services.

RIM added that it would continue to try to get the Supreme Court to review the case. The Supreme Court on November 28, 2005 agreed to review a similar case involving online auctioneer eBay Inc and patent holder MercExchange, and take up the broad question of when it is appropriate to grant an injunction against a patent infringer.

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