RealTime IT News

RIM Suffers Another BlackBerry Legal Defeat

UPDATED The $450 million patent dispute settlement between the Canadian-based maker of the popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail device and NTP, Inc., a Virginia patent firm, is invalid, according to a court ruling issued Wednesday morning.

U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer said the term sheet entered between Research in Motion and NTP in March to settle the litigation is not an enforceable agreement. Other details of the ruling were filed under seal by the court.

The ruling is another legal setback for RIM following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in October denying an emergency appeal of the patent infringement ruling against the company.

RIM contends it wasn't aware of NTP's intellectual property when it launched the BlackBerry in January 2000. It also argues that it hasn't received sufficient proof of the relation of the patents to RIM's products.

Wednesday's decision opens the door for NTP to press for perhaps as much as $1 billion in infringement damages and seek an injunction barring RIM from marketing it services in the United States.

According to a statement issued by NTP, the ruling allows the company to continue moving forward in the case, including re-confirmation of an injunction that "prohibits RIM from selling, using or importing into the United States infringing BlackBerry hardware and software until the last of the litigated patents expires in 2012."

The statement also said any injunction would not affect usage of BlackBerry products by federal, state or local governments or by first-responders.

In its statement on the decision, RIM said it is "preparing software workaround designs which it intends to implement if necessary to maintain the operation of BlackBerry services in the United States."

The company also said it is reviewing any accounting implications of the decision.

Three years ago, a Virginia court ruled that the BlackBerry infringed on patents held by NTP. In March of this year, the two companies preliminarily reached a $450 million settlement, but further talks fell through in June.

RIM then returned to court, seeking enforcement of the $450 million figure.