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Intel backs RIM in Supreme Court appeal bid

US patent law's territorial limits 'crying out for clarification'

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Intel has asked the US Supreme Court to agree to hear Research in Motion's plea that the Court of Appeal's August 2005 ruling in favour of "non-practicing patentee" NTP be dismissed.

Stating its interest in the case - it supplies RIM with processors, and once invested in the company - the chip giant said the Supreme Court must use this opportunity to clarify the degree to which US patent law must take into account international factors.

"The scope of US patent liability for activities crossing national borders is an issue of great and growing importance," Intel said in testimony filed with the court on 4 January. It is an issue, it added, which "cries out for clarification".

The Supreme Court meets on 20 January to discuss whether it should hear RIM's appeal. The last time it did so, in October 2005, it rejected the Canadian company's request. In December 2005, RIM tried again, this time arguing that the US Patent Act, under which NTP successfully sued the company in the District Court - a ruling validated in August 2005 by the US Court of Appeal - only covers infringement within the US.

RIM says crucial components of its push email system operate outside the nation, and so can't fall within the territorial limits of the Act's jurisdiction. Handheld devices which access the system can be legally purchased outside the US but used within the country's borders. It wants the Supreme Court to issue an edict specifying how the Act's territoriality applies in the internet era, and hopefully, in the process, ensure it's safe from NTP.

"Of course NTP and RIM disagree over which construction of the statute is correct," said Intel in its filing. "But everyone should agree that the extent to which US patent laws cover international activities is an extremely important issue that merits review by this court." ®

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