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