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February 24, 2006

RIM Still Running For the Time Being

The first stories are in, and the bottom line is that Judge James R. Spencer did not impose an injunction at this time.  According to the New York Times, Judge Spencer said he would rule on damages before he would rule about a shutdown.  The Judge is quoted as saying "I am absolutely surprised that you have left this incredibly important and significant decision to the court.  I have always thought that this decision, in the end, was a business decision." CNET quotes the judge as saying "In plain words, the case should have been settled, but it hasn't, so I have to deal with that reality."

The hearing lasted about four hours with lawyers for RIM, NTP, and the government making arguments.  NTP asked that damages be recalculated to $126 million from the $23 million initially awarded four years ago as well as an injunction that would have shut down RIM's U.S. service.  RIM argued against the injunction noting the disruption to government and other essential services.  NTP has allowed for government users to be exempt from any injunction, but RIM has always said it was difficult to distinguish between corporate and government users.  (What, these things don't have unique identifiers?-ed.)

In the backdrop of this, the U.S. Patent Office issued its final rejection on a second of the five patents that are in dispute.  Judge Spencer has said that the parallel proceedings have no effect on his consideration as these rulings are not final.  They can go to an administrative appeal and then to the Circuit Court for the Federal Appeals, and possibly the Supreme Court before becoming final.  As this process could take years, there is no reason to stay current proceedings until the outcome is final.

Prior to the hearing, NTP ripped into the patent appeal process, accusing RIM of lobbying the Patent Office with speeding up a normally glacier-like reconsideration.  NTP pointed to the fact that one of RIM's lobbyists is a former high ranking patent official.

RIM has said that it has a work-around if forced to shut down services using NTP technology, but aside from saying that, no one but RIM knows what it is and how it works.  There is no indication as to how painful it would be for company and customer to implement that work-around.  Treos anyone?

February 24, 2006 | Permalink

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