Handspring, RIM Settle Keyboard Suit

Earlier this year, Handspring thumbed its nose at Research In Motion’s (RIM) patent lawsuit. Now, Handspring gets a “thumbs up” for putting RIM’s keyboard technology in some of its Treo Communicator PDAs.

The two companies Tuesday signed an agreement that will allow Mountain View, Calif.-based Handspring to license certain RIM keyboard patents. The agreement also means that Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM will dismiss its pending litigation against Handspring.

The September 18 complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware alleged the Treo 180, Treo 270 and Treo 300 infringed a patent associated with keyboard features used in RIM’s BlackBerry handhelds.

Specific terms of the royalty-bearing license were not disclosed, but the Treo products use QWERTY keyboards to let users access phone, Internet, e-mail and SMS messaging functions. The Treo communicators retail starting at $280.

“Wireless device users are finding that integrated QWERTY keyboards are a fast, easy and familiar method of data input,” Handspring founder and CEO Donna Dubinsky said in a statement. “We are pleased to come to this agreement with RIM so that we can focus our resources on product innovation and expanding the market for our Treo communicators.”

The Treo is one of several handheld devices sporting QWERTY keyboards. Sony’s Clie, Hewlett-Packard’s Jornada 728 and Palm’s Tungsten W also let users thumb their way through screens.

Now that Handspring has come to an agreement RIM will focus on its other keyboard patent dispute with rival startup Good Technology. RIM has filed four separate lawsuits that claim Good stole trade secrets, breached contracts and engaged in unfair competition and civil conspiracy.

Chairman and Co-CEO Jim Balsilli said the fact that companies like Handspring are working with RIM shows that his company’s technology must have the leading edge.

“RIM is committed to licensing its patents and technologies to provide customers with high-quality and proven products that leverage our extensive wireless expertise,” he said.

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