Microsoft and Intel are taking opposing sides in a long-running patent dispute involving the BlackBerry handheld, a case that threatens US sales of the wireless email device. Friend-of-the-court briefs filed last week by both companies and reviewed by ZDNet UK sister site CNET News.com reveal that Microsoft wants the courts to re-evaluate a 2002 district court decision that found BlackBerry maker Research In Motion infringed patents owned by NTP.
RIM’s BlackBerry devices and messaging service allow wireless always-on access to email and corporate data on portable devices. NTP claims that RIM violates its patents covering the use of radio frequency wireless communications in email systems.
Microsoft, which competes with RIM’s software products, claims the NTP case establishes a rule where US patents should not, for legal purposes, extend outside the country’s borders. That contradicts court statements made during Microsoft’s own legal tussles with Eolas and AT&T, the company said.
It creates “an incentive for American companies to locate certain aspects of their systems outside the United States, primarily to avoid infringement liability. Such an outcome would likely result in loss of jobs, skilled workers, capital, and information technology abroad,” Microsoft argued.
Intel has taken the opposite end of the debate. Its 10-page opinion supports RIM’s argument and faults NTP for not taking precautions to include language that covered international borders.