An important ruling in the ongoing patent dispute between BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion and NTP Inc. could come as early as tomorrow, as RIM puts the finishing touches on a “workaround” that it claims sidesteps NTP’s patents.
Judge James Spencer of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this week will consider two motions filed by the parties in the case, said James Wallace, an attorney with Wiley Rein & Fielding and NTP’s lead counsel, in an interview. NTP has filed a motion seeking a judgment that a proposed settlement between the two companies was never a final deal, and RIM has filed a motion asking the court to stay the case while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) finalizes its review of NTP’s patents. The PTO has issued preliminary decisions striking down all of NTP’s patents.
The long-running case seems to be hurtling toward a conclusion as various appeals from RIM have proven unsuccessful. NTP sued RIM in November 2001 alleging that the popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices and software infringe on patents held by NTP. In 2003 a jury agreed with NTP, and RIM has been unable to overturn that verdict.
However, in December 2004 an appeals court did lift an injunction against the BlackBerry devices and software that was imposed after the 2003 verdict but stayed pending the appeals process. The appeals court decided that the lower court incorrectly interpreted one aspect of the patent claims and therefore needed to re-evaluate the original decision and injunction. But the appeals court upheld the finding of infringement on most of NTP’s patents. NTP plans to once again seek an injunction against the BlackBerry devices after the Virginia court rules, Wallace said.