Several months ago, a federal court ruled that Research in Motion (RIM) had infringed on five patents held by NTP Inc. related to wirelessly transferring email. The court ordered RIM pay $23.1 million in damages. At the same time, NTP requested all sales of the BlackBerry be halted and its wireless email service be stopped.
This was a fairly typical patent infringement lawsuit until last week. According to the Washington Post, James Eagen, the chief administrator of the House of Representatives, wrote to the lawyers involved with a request that nothing to done to stop RIM’s wireless service because House members use it to communicate.
Mr. Eagen said that the House has given 3,000 Blackberrys to members and their senior staff. They are concerned that if NTP convinces the federal judge to shut RIM’s service down, the House will be less able to stay in touch with each other, especially in an emergency.
NTP’s lawyer didn’t take kindly to the the request. “This is a sorry state of affairs. The U.S. Congress is defending the continued use of foreign technology that is determined to be operating unlawfully.” He called the Blackberry email service a “foreign technology” because RIM is based in Canada. However, he did write back to Mr. Eagen to say that, if he and RIM’s lawyers couldn’t come to a settlement on licensing fees, he won’t ask the court to shut down RIM’s service until a replacement is ready.
The court is expected to rule next month on whether to shut down the wireless email service.