RealTime IT News

RIM Nears Edge of Possible Injunction

The countdown is on for Research in Motion (RIM) to avoid a possible court-ordered ban of U.S. sales of the company's popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices and service.

Wednesday, a federal judge set a Feb. 24 court date to determine if an injunction is required as part of RIM's patent infringement settlement with Virginia patent-holding firm NTP.

The court date leaves the Ontario, Canada-based RIM 29 days to negotiate a deal with NTP. Judge James Spencer of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued an injunction against U.S. BlackBerry sales more than a year ago but suspended the imposition of the injunction pending RIM's appeal efforts.

While RIM won some points of its appeal, the court upheld enough of Spencer's ruling to keep the company on the legal hook. In November, Spencer rejected RIM's efforts to enforce a $450 million settlement with NTP.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined a high court review of the long-running case. RIM had hoped the Supreme Court would rule on the validity of U.S. patent laws over foreign firms.

"The Supreme Court's denial closed the final path for RIM to avoid liability," NTP said in a statement after the Supreme Court ruling.

Spencer's November decision to throw out the $450 million settlement allowed NTP to continue to pressure RIM to negotiate a new settlement in order to avoid Spencer's 2002 injunction.

The injunction "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."

NTP said in November any injunction would not affect the usage of BlackBerry products by federal, state or local governments or by first responders.

RIM claims if NTP prevails in gaining an injunction, it has software workarounds to keep its products in U.S. hands.