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US govt. plea in BlackBerry case

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The US Justice Department has stepped into the ongoing patent infringement suit against BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM), asking the court to ensure that any injunction on the use of US BlackBerrys will not affect Government workers.

The Justice Department has filed a “statement of interest” with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, seeking a 90-day delay so that government agencies can compile a list of workers who would be affected by a BlackBerry shutdown, the Washington Post reports. These workers, says the Department, should then be exempted from any service cut-off imposed by the court.

The Department has also expressed concern that "there may be a substantial public interest that may be impaired" if the BlackBerry service is closed down, reports the newspaper.

The District Court is due to consider arguments on the merits of some of the patent claims brought by holding company NTP Inc., following last month’s refusal by the Supreme Court to rehear an appeal by RIM against a Court of Appeal ruling.

The District Court will also decide whether to impose an injunction prohibiting RIM from selling the BlackBerry and any other products, software or services using the disputed technology, in the US.

According to reports, NTP has already confirmed that government workers will not be impacted by an injunction, but the Administration is concerned as to how this will be ensured in practice.

Background

NTP sued in November 2001, claiming that certain RIM products were infringing on patents covering a method of using radio frequency wireless communications in email systems.

RIM was found guilty of patent infringement in November 2002, when a jury awarded NTP Inc damages of $53.7m and imposed an injunction – which was then stayed pending an appeal.

The injunction was lifted by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington in August this year, after the court found that the BlackBerry did infringe on some of NTP’s patents, but that one of the lower court’s key definitions, relating to the term “originating processor," was too wide. The Court of Appeals therefore returned the case to the District Court for further arguments over the claims that may have been affected by the flawed definition.

RIM appealed, asking that the full Appeals Court re-consider the case, but the Appeals Court and the US Supreme Court have both refused to take the case further.

Separately, the US Patent and Trademark Office has cast doubt on all of the patents involved in the dispute. RIM hopes that the USPTO rulings, which are independent from the litigation process, will boost its arguments before the District Court.

Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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