RIM has 'workaround' for issues in NTP patent case

RIM has 'workaround' for issues in NTP patent case

RIM is prepared to implement new BlackBerry software that would not infringe on NTP's patents should it lose the ongoing legal dispute.

Should Research In Motion (RIM) fail to win its legal battle against patent holder NTP, the company believes it can implement new software for its BlackBerry wireless e-mail service that would bypass the technology NTP claims to own.

On a conference call last week following RIM's announcement of a motion asking the courts to enforce a previous settlement deal, RIM Chairman and co-Chief Executive Officer Jim Balsillie said that while the company hopes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) overturns NTP's patents, the company is prepared to continue its BlackBerry service with a "work-around."

"Should RIM not be successful in its enforcement proceedings, there is also the option for RIM to implement a modified BlackBerry solution that works around the NTP claim construction. I am unable to expand further on this work-around solution due to confidentiality restrictions at this time," Balsillie said on the conference call last Thursday. A RIM spokeswoman said Balsillie was traveling on Friday and unavailable for comment.

Last week, RIM announced that a previous settlement deal with NTP was on the skids. The two companies are quarreling over the terms and scope of an agreement they signed in March under which RIM would pay NTP US$450 million to settle the dispute.

Two U.S. courts had previously determined that RIM's BlackBerry push e-mail service infringes on patents NTP holds for a wireless e-mail system. The BlackBerry service allows IT departments to deliver corporate e-mail stored behind a firewall to wireless devices such as RIM's own BlackBerry devices or a number of other personal digital assistants and mobile phones.

In March, RIM and NTP announced they had reached an agreement to settle their legal dispute and entered into a licensing agreement that granted RIM a perpetual license to the patents. The companies have been unable to finalize their agreement, blaming each other for unwillingness to stick to the terms of the initial agreement. RIM believes the original agreement granted it a fully paid license to NTP's technology, while NTP believes that the original joint press release that contained the language about the fully paid perpetual license did not constitute a final agreement.

A call to NTP's lawyer was not immediately returned.

The PTO has already overturned two NTP patents after a reexamination of the claims within the patents, and RIM expects the other three patents at issue to be re-examined by the end of this year, Balsillie said.

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