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October 26, 2005

Supreme Court Opens Possibility Of U.S. BlackBerry Ban



Courtesy of TechWeb News

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday denied a request by Research In Motion Ltd. to stay further court proceedings in NTP Inc.'s patent-infringement suit, leaving open the possibility that a lower court could prohibit RIM from providing BlackBerry service or selling the handheld devices in the United States.

RIM had made an emergency request with the high court, asking it to stop all lower-court proceedings while it decided whether to consider RIM's appeal. Roberts denied the request without comment, but RIM said in a statement, "The Supreme Court was not asked to, and did not decide, whether it ultimately will accept an appeal of the decision in this case."

RIM was hoping to prevent a U.S. District Court from deciding whether to ban the Warterloo, Ontario, company from selling the popular BlackBerry handheld device in the United States.

As a result of the latest decision, RIM said in a statement that it "expects NTP to ask the District Court to enter a new injunction prohibiting RIM from providing BlackBerry service and from using, selling, manufacturing or importing its handhelds and software in the United States."

Robert P. Andris, intellectual property attorney and partner in the Redwood City, Calif., law office of Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley, said RIM's chances of getting an emergency hearing from the high court were slim from the beginning.

“Relief from the Supreme Court in these circumstances is rare," Andris said in an email. "Generally, the Supreme Court and other appellate courts like to allow the trial court to pass on a matter before they intercede."

RIM has argued that U.S. patent laws do not apply to it because it operates in Canada, an argument that the courts so far have rejected. Nevertheless, RIM said it "continues to believe this case raises significant national and international issues warranting further appellate review."

RIM is trying to reverse its loss of a patent-infringement suit filed by patent-holding company NTP of Arlington, Va. The latter company claimed RIM infringed on several patents, including NTP's radio-communications technology. A federal court in Virginia had ruled against RIM in 2003, but that decision was reversed on appeal and sent back to the Virginia court for reconsideration.

Besides NTP's expected request for a BlackBerry ban, the U.S. District also is expected to decide whether to force NTP to abide by a settlement agreement the companies had announced in March.

In the deal, RIM had agreed to pay $450 million, and license NTP technology covered by all current and future patents.

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