RIM Wins Another Victory in NTP Patent Dispute

Canada-based Research In Motion (RIM), maker of the popular BlackBerry mobile messaging device, won another round in its intellectual property fight with U.S.-based NTP as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office continued its re-examination of patents that are the basis of NTP’s case.

Shares of RIM rose nearly 3 percent on news that the USPTO rejected two more of NTP’s patent claims, despite difficulties for RIM this week that led to outages of the popular mobile messaging service.

Legal observers indicated that the latest patent decision dealt yet another blow to NTP and was a benefit to RIM and the overall wireless industry, which is doing more and more in the way of e-mail and messaging on mobile handsets. They also pointed out the unlikelihood that BlackBerry users would have their devices rendered obsolete by NTP’s intellectual property claims.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of concern in the industry,” said Phil Albert, an IP attorney with Townsend and Townsend and Crew. “Because it’s never going to come down to, oh, I can’t use my BlackBerry,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Patently Denied

Over the course of its more than three-year battle with NTP, RIM has successfully forced the U.S. Patent Office’s review of NTP’s patents, resulting in the rejection of five of eight patents referenced by NTP in the case.

Albert said that, even if one of the remaining patents was not invalidated, the company would be unlikely to seek an injunction against use of BlackBerry devices and technology that was supposedly in violation of NTP’s IP rights.

“They could ask for an injunction and everybody’s BlackBerry would be useless,” he said. “But that isn’t going to happen because NTP, I don’t think, is in a position to take over that market.”

Despite the failure of the two companies to agree to a US$450 million settlement offer from RIM earlier this year, NTP is looking to leverage its patent rights for funds, according to Albert.

“The only thing they get out of it is money,” he said. “There’s no benefit to NTP to shutting down BlackBerry, only to threaten and assert they have a legal right to [the technology].”

Eliminating Blocker

Albert said the rejection of NTP’s patents is unlikely to have much impact beyond the companies involved.

“The technology industry in general isn’t going to be able to take anything away from the invalidation of these patents,” he said. “This is specific to these patents and the facts of these patents.”

For the wireless industry and companies that compete with RIM or are wary of NTP, however, the latest U.S. Patent Office action is more good news, Albert added.

“It eliminates one of the blockers,” he said. “NTP clearly has patents and has shown intent to exert them.”

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