The BlackBerry of The Future
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UPDATED: Collaborative environments, IM presence, and -- oh yeah -- workarounds to address its patent troubles that threaten its BlackBerry network with a shutdown in the United States.
These are some of the agenda items for Research In Motion and its embattled BlackBerry network.
Faced with a looming injunction that would shut down its service in the U.S., and ongoing litigation over a patent-infringement tussle with NTP, the maker of the wildly popular wireless e-mail service said it has developed and tested software workaround designs for all of its BlackBerry handsets that work on its converged voice/data network in the United States.
The fixes could help RIM dodge a bullet, should a ruling on its patent fight not go its way.
The usual legal disclaimers that are a part of RIM's public statements these days apply here, too. RIM said it "believes it has strong legal and factual arguments opposing an injunction," but has worked up the workarounds as a contingency plan in case an injunction hits.
The company said there are only nine claims relating to three NTP patents remaining in dispute in this litigation, and those claims are only directed to specific implementations of certain aspects of the BlackBerry products and services.
As a result, RIM said it has been able to modify its underlying BlackBerry message-delivery system to "work around" the NTP patent claims.
Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of RIM, also said RIM is "pragmatic and reasonable" in its willingness to strike a settlement with NTP "while protecting RIM's business and partners."
His statement also called "untenable" patent-holder and legal adversary NTP's public offer of a "reasonable" license.
"It comprises illusory protection for RIM and its partners and requires a lump-sum payment for the theoretical life of the patents even though the U.S. Patent Office is expected to nullify them."
With legal maneuvering still an ongoing part of both companies' daily existence, the workaround at least addresses concerns that BlackBerry customers have raised over whether they would be cut off from the wireless e-mail that has moved into mission-critical status with millions of enterprise customers, including members of Congress and their staffs.
RIM said its workaround provides a contingency for customers and provides a "counterbalance to NTP's threats."
The latest development comes about two weeks ahead of another court date on the ongoing patent dispute between RIM and NTP. That's when the courts decide whether to impose an injunction that could ultimately pull the plug in all of RIM's U.S. messaging services.
U.S. District Judge James Spencer is scheduled to hear testimony from both sides on Feb. 24.
Despite the legal wrangling, RIM firmly believes there is life after litigation and is looking to expand its popular BlackBerry device and service.