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Judge says RIM patent case stay unlikely

The maker of the BlackBerry e-mail device suffered a setback in a potentially damaging patent infringement suit when a judge said Wednesday he was unlikely to await a U.S. patent office review.
/ Source: Reuters

Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry e-mail device, suffered a setback in a potentially damaging patent infringement suit when a judge said Wednesday he was unlikely to await a U.S. patent office review.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer told a hearing he would consider whether a disputed $450 settlement with patent holding company NTP Inc. was enforceable before deciding whether to go forward with an injunction that could halt BlackBerry sales.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this year completed a re-examination of eight NTP patents and issued initial rulings rejecting all of the claims — but it could take years for a final conclusion.

"Frankly it's highly unlikely that I'm going to stay these proceedings ... I don't run (patent office) business and they don't run mine," Spencer said.

There had been speculation the case could be suspended pending a full review by the patent office.

Shares of Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM fell $1.87 to $61.99 on the Nasdaq market. In Toronto, the stock fell C$1.90 to C$73.69. The company had no immediate comment on the court hearing.

NTP filed its suit against RIM in 2001 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. A jury found in favor of NTP in 2002.

In 2003, Spencer granted an injunction that would have halted U.S. sales of the BlackBerry and shut down its service, but stayed the injunction pending appeal.

An appeals court later scaled back the infringement ruling against RIM, but upheld some patent infringement claims.

Efforts by RIM to get the courts to stay case, including a request to U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, have failed.

RIM and NTP reached a settlement in March, but the deal fell apart in June in a dispute over how to interpret its terms. RIM wants the settlement enforced.

Spencer called Wednesday for briefs from both sides on the settlement issue.

"I intend to move swiftly," Spencer said. "I've spent enough of my life and time on NTP and RIM."