A New Twist in the RIM/NTP Lawsuit

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Research in Motion (RIM) is trying a novel new argument in the long-running patent-infringement lawsuit brought by NTP.

In this lawsuit, NTP contends that RIM’s BlackBerry devices infringe on a number of patents held by NTP.

According to the New York Times, RIM is arguing that NTP’s patents don’t apply to it because the central part of its email system is in Canada, where U.S. patents have no force.

NTP says this argument isn’t valid because the BlackBerry handhelds themselves are in the United States. “We don’t care if one part of the system is run in Canada,” the company’s lawyer told the New York Times. “The beneficial use of the system is in the United States.”

Influential Friends

RIM has made this argument before and it has been rejected. However, the Canadian government has stepped in and asked the appeals court to re-consider its ruling in this area.

A spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs says that they are concerned that this case set a precedent for U.S. law being enforced inside Canada.

EarthLink has also filed a brief that supports RIM’s position. EarthLink is a large ISP that offers BlackBerry handhelds.

A Bit of History

NTP first filed suit in this case in November 2001, charging that the BlackBerry line used technology that had first been developed by Tom Campana. A year later, a U.S. jury found in NTP’s favor and ordered RIM to pay damages.

RIM doesn’t have to actually pay any of these until the appeal process is over, but it has had to set aside 8.5 percent of its revenues to pay them when the appeals process is complete.

Recently, an appeals court upheld much of the findings of the lower court. The suit was than sent back to the district court to take another look at how much RIM should pay in damages.

The court date for the next phase in this case has not yet been scheduled.

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