February 1, 2006

Patent in BlackBerry Case Gets Non-final Rejection

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has sided with BlackBerry portable e-mail device maker Research in Motion Ltd. by issuing a non-final rejection of a fifth patent at the center of its legal battle with patent holding company NTP Inc.

The decision means the patent agency has now issued non-final rejections of all five patents at issue in a BlackBerry patent-infringement case before a federal judge.

But the outcome of the challenge at the patent office is likely months away, while a potentially decisive court hearing in the infringement case is set for February 24.

NTP is seeking to shut down most U.S. BlackBerry service.

RIM shares were up 9.42 percent to $73.89 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq.

RIM is pursuing the patent office challenge as it tries to fend off a 2003 ruling that NTP won against the company in federal court in Richmond, Va.

NTP lawyer James Wallace said Wednesday the patent office review process, including appeals, will likely stretch out for at least six months.

Before then, on February 24, U.S. District Judge James Spencer will hear arguments on whether to grant NTP's request for a shutdown of most U.S. BlackBerry service.

Wallace said the patent holding company now has 30 days to respond to the most recent patent office decision. After that, the patent office can render a final decision, which could then go before a patent appeals board for further proceedings.

In a court brief filed on January 17, RIM's lawyers argued that Spencer should refrain from imposing any injunction for a number of reasons, including an "exceptional public interest" in maintaining uninterrupted BlackBerry service for national security officials, among others.