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NTP vs RIM judge 'unlikely' to stay case

But may yet force the $450m settlement on NTP

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The US Judge presiding over NTP's legal battle with Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) this week said it was "highly unlikely" he would wait for a US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) verdict on the validity of NTP's intellectual property before making his own judgement on the matter.

"Frankly, it's highly unlikely that I'm going to stay these proceedings," Judge James Spencer said, Reuters reports. "I don't run [patent office] business and they don't run mine."

He added: "I intend to move swiftly... I've spent enough of my life and time on NTP and RIM."

That's bad news for RIM, which may well have been hoping for a delay pending publication of the PTO's findings. Thus far, the PTO has struck down seven of eight NTP patents and may yet invalidate the remainder. NTP has said all it needs is a single claim to pursue its action against RIM.

However, RIM can take heart from the fact that Judge Spencer looks set to see whether the abortive $450m settlement reached in March between the two companies is enforceable before proceeding to consider NTP's request for an injunction banning the sale of products already judged to infringe its intellectual property.

RIM and NTP reached an accord after the US Court of Appeals decided RIM had indeed infringed some of NTP's patent claims. The Court would later scale back its initial judgement, but not after talks between RIM and NTP about the fine details of the settlement broke down. Up to that point, RIM was to pay NTP $450m for a licence to the latter's IP.

RIM sued NTP in June in order to force the settlement, which is likely to be considerably lower than the cost of a sales ban and whatever else it may be forced to cough up in punitive damages. RIM has non-infringing technology up its sleeve which it can implement if an injunction is granted against it, but any ban will still cost it dear, we'd say.

NTP began legal proceedings against RIM in 2001. The following year, a US District Court for Eastern Virginia jury found in NTP's favour. In 2003, Judge Spencer granted an injunction banning Blackberry sales in the US, but stayed the injunction pending the outcome of RIM's appeal. Last year, the appeal court also ruled in NTP's favour. ®

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