Court Rules Blackberry Infringes on NTP Patents

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Research in Motion (RIM), a company with a reputation for bringing frequent patent infringement lawsuits against its competitors, has itself lost a patent infringement suit brought against it by NTP Inc. A federal court has ruled that RIM has infringed on five NTP patents related to wirelessly transferring email and ordered the company to pay $23.1 million.

Not surprisingly, RIM disagrees with this ruling. Co-chief executive Jim Balsillie said, “We do not believe these patents are valid. We do not believe we infringe on them. And we are willing and prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we prevail.” RIM has said it plans to appeal the decision.

RIM does not yet have to pay the $23 million, though the company says it is setting the money aside just in case. The jury ruled that RIM knowingly infringed on the patents and judge in the case will decide in February if the damages should be increased.

At the same time, he will rule on NTP’s request to halt sales of the BlackBerry. This is a typical request in patent infringement suits and is rarely granted. If RIM loses its appeal, it will have to license the patents from NTP and companies like to use the threat of having the infringing products pulled from shelves as part of the negotiating process.

While $23.1 million isn’t chump change, RIM has about $550 million in cash, so the ruling certainly won’t break the company. Nevertheless, the company’s shares are down about 10% today after this ruling was announced late yesterday.

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