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Date set for Blackberry ban hearing

RIM set to ask for royalty payment order

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Research in Motion (RIM) will appear in court on Friday, 24 February to hear if it must close its Blackberry push email service to US customers or, at the very least, make them implement an upgrade.

Judge James Spencer yesterday named the date at which he will hear arguments from RIM and patent holding company NTP over whether he should ban Blackberry for violating NTP's intellectual property, a verdict already reached at both District Court and Court of Appeals level.

Both parties filed their respective arguments for and against the ban earlier this month, and are each due to file responses to the other side on 1 February. RIM's pitch is that its service is too important to the economic wealth of the nation and that the US Patent Office has said that all of the relevant claims in NTP's patents are invalid, even though the organisation has yet to formally strike them out.

NTP, meanwhile, says the court has ruled against RIM, so the original injunction against Blackberry, stayed pending RIM's appeal and later dropped, should now be ordered and enforced. Blackberry users have had plenty of warning and should have put in place contingency plans, NTP reckons.

RIM has said it has technology ready that will enable it to continue to offer Blackberry services in the US by ensuring it doesn't tread on the toes of NTP's intellectual property. But it seems it would rather pay a royalty to NTP than undergo a ban which, in turn, would force it to implement the workaround.

"NTP can be fully compensated through ongoing royalty payments in lieu of an injunction," Marke Guibert, RIM's VP of corporate marketing, said yesterday.

Clearly RIM feels the workaround would do more harm than good - users, it obviously believes, will turn to other services rather than jump though the hoops the non-infringing technology is likely to hold up in front of them. ®

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