Court deals another blow to RIM's appeal hopes

Court deals another blow to RIM's appeal hopes

A US appeals court has refused to consider an additional appeal from Research In Motion in the patent infringement case filed by NTP, NTP announced Friday.

In August, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied RIM's request for a rehearing of the appeals court's December 2004 decision upholding a lower court decision that the popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail software and devices infringe on patents for a wireless e-mail system held by NTP. RIM sought a rehearing en banc, which means that its request for rehearing would be heard before the full complement of 12 judges rather than the three-judge panel that issued the August decision.

However, that request was denied, setting the stage for the case to return to the US. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, NTP said in a release Friday. This could lead to the imposition of an injunction preventing the sale of BlackBerry devices and software in the US. The injunction had been stayed by the lower court pending RIM's appeals.

RIM plans to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court, it said in a release Friday. The Waterloo, Ontario, company admitted that requests for en banc and Supreme Court hearings are rarely granted, but its appeals serve in part to highlight the international patent issues raised by the case, it said. RIM plans to ask the federal appeals court to stay any further proceedings until the Supreme Court decides whether it wants to hear the case.

RIM and NTP are also tracking two other aspects of their long-running patent dispute. The US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has issued preliminary decisions throwing out the claims in NTP's patents, and NTP is expected to appeal that decision. NTP is allowed to respond to the preliminary ruling, after which the PTO will issue a final ruling.

Also, the two companies are also trying to sort out the remnants of a brief agreement to settle their dispute. In March, the companies announced they had agreed to settle the dispute by having RIM make a US$450 million payment to NTP in exchange for a perpetual license to NTP's patents. However, the deal fell through, as RIM thought the press release constituted a final agreement while NTP insisted the companies had never reached a definitive agreement. RIM has asked an appeals court to enforce the terms of the settlement, and is expected to argue against an injunction by pointing out that it agreed to settle the case months ago.

RIM's stock (RIMM) fell US$3.80, or 5.67 percent, to US$63.17 before the Nasdaq stock exchange halted trading on the stock late Friday morning. Trading reopened around 2 p.m. Friday afternoon, and the price immediately declined further ahead of the 4 p.m. closing bell.

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