By John Cox, NetworkWorld.com, 01/26/06
The next legal skirmish for Research in Motion in its long-running
patent battle with NTP will take place Feb. 24 in a federal courtroom
closely watched by customers worried that RIM's BlackBerry service
could be shut down.
U.S. District Court Judge James Spencer this week set the date for a
hearing to consider a possible injunction against RIM, maker of the
BlackBerry wireless e-mail device. NTP has asked the court to close
down the BlackBerry service in the U.S. and the manufacture and sale
of the handhelds themselves. Both companies are scheduled to file
opposing arguments in the case with Judge Spencer by Feb. 1.
Right around the time the parties will be meeting in Judge Spencer's
courtroom, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may be moving
toward a final resolution of the NTP patents at the heart of this
dispute. Last December, the office issued another set of preliminary
rulings that found NTP's patents to be invalid. NTP's response is due
by Feb. 28.
A report this week by analysts at investment banker Goldman Sachs
noted that "NTP must prove that these patents contain new inventions
on several key patents by Feb. 28 or face the PTO permanently
rejecting the patents," the authors wrote. "If the PTO issues final
rejections on any or all of the five NTP patents, this could change
the course of the lawsuit. To the extent that patents are ruled
invalid, we believe that it is likely that this would be considered by
the District Court."