RIM Ready to Prevent BlackBerry Shutdown

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After years of legal wrangling between Research in Motion (RIM) and NTP, things are coming to a head. RIM is facing a possible court-ordered shutdown of its BlackBerry service. Still, the company has a plan in case this happens.

RIM announced today that it has developed and tested software workaround designs for all BlackBerry handsets in the United States.

According to RIM, there are only nine claims relating to three NTP patents remaining in dispute in this lawsuit, and those claims are only directed to specific implementations of certain aspects of the BlackBerry service.

As a result, RIM feels it was able to modify its underlying message delivery system to work around the NTP patent claims.

RIM has incorporated the workaround designs into a software update called BlackBerry Multi-Mode Edition. It is so named because the software is capable of operating in different modes that can be remotely activated.

In the absence of shut-down order, the software and the underlying message delivery system can continue to run just as it does now.

If the court order does come, though, RIM is able to remotely activate a “US Mode” and the workaround designs would automatically kick in.

BlackBerry handhelds and servers already in use will need to install a software update, but new devices with this workaround software installed — but hidden in the background — will soon begin to ship.

Incidentally, RIM has filed new patent applications to cover its workaround designs.

Some Background

RIM and NTP have been involved in a patent-infringement lawsuit for years now, and courts have steadily ruled against RIM. Later this month, a federal court will decide whether to shut the BlackBerry service down.

There is some hope for RIM, though; the U.S. Patent Office has made it clear that NTP’s patents are likely to be declared invalid. Also, the two companies are involved in patent licensing discussions.

Nevertheless, the court could still order the BlackBerry service to be shut down.

“RIM remains pragmatic and reasonable in its willingness to enter into a settlement that would generously compensate NTP while protecting RIM’s business and partners,” said Jim Balsillie, Chairman and Co-CEO at Research In Motion. “NTP’s public offer of a so-called ‘reasonable’ license, however, is simply untenable. It comprises illusory protection for RIM and its partners and requires a lump-sum payment for the theoretical life of the patents even though the US Patent Office is expected to nullify them.”

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