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RIM prepares to post ban-beating Blackberry update

Firm to send switch-over signal if court grants injunction

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Research in Motion has finally come clean - sort of - as to how it plans to side-step the effects of its infringement of NTP intellectual property and keep its Blackberry service in business. It will ship a software patch that converts Blackberries into what it calls "multi-mode" devices. New product will get the code automatically. If the US District Court bans the current, patent-infringing "standard mode" Blackberry, RIM will activate an alternative, non-infringing mode on all upgraded devices.

That's the plan, at any rate. It's dependent on US Blackberry users installing the software and - crucially - that the workaround doesn't infringe NTP's or anyone else's patents. RIM said it has "a confidential and privileged legal opinion" that says its Multi-Mode Edition software doesn't tread on NTP's toes, but an opinion is not a fact and arguably not worth a hill of beans until it has resisted any legal challenge that comes its way.

RIM also said it was filing patents to cover the technology in its new mode. If granted the patents would provide further weight to RIM's non-infringement claim. Then again, if NTP's patent claims can be declared invalid by the US Patents and Trademarks Office because of newly discovered prior art, so too may RIM's. RIM claimed "final rejections of NTP’s patents are expected from the Patent Office in the coming weeks".

As RIM rightly pointed out, however, this is all moot if no injunction is granted. If that proves the case, it won't transmit the switch-over signal and all Blackberries, even updated ones, will continue to operate in standard mode. RIM said it would offer the software - which will be posted at some future, as yet unannounced time - as a contingency, allowing customers to have it in place ready for the injunction, should it come.

RIM re-iterated its opposition to any injunction - surprise, surprise - and added that it believes there are grounds for arguing that any ban should not apply to existing Blackberry customers, though that's not an opinion NTP shares.

Once again, RIM stressed the "significant impact on national security and the US economy" a ban would have, though that remains a specious argument. And if anyone did underpin such essential endeavours on a single, potentially unlawful communications medium, frankly they'd deserve all they got.

The court hearing to determine whether an injunction should be granted is scheduled to take place on 24 February. ®

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