Research In Motion Ltd., facing litigation that may halt its BlackBerry e-mail service in the U.S., is this week fighting a case to protect the technology in Britain. Luxembourg-based Inpro Licensing Sarl is suing Research In Motion at a London court for allegedly infringing a U.K. patent it holds relating to the relay of data between BlackBerry phones and pagers and the Internet.
If Research In Motion loses the case, it may force the Waterloo, Canada-based company and partners such as T-Mobile International AG to stop selling or supporting the devices in Britain, according to lawyers acting on the case. Research in Motion has around 375,000 BlackBerry subscribers in the U.K., around 10 percent of its global total.
Inpro, a patent licensing firm that is also pursuing similar claims against Research In Motion in Germany, may be trying to exploit the company’s “perceived weakness” in failing to resolve long-running patent litigation in the U.S., Peter Misek, a Canaccord Capital Corp. analyst in Toronto who rates the shares “buy” and doesn’t own them, said in a note to clients yesterday.
A proposed $450 million settlement between Research In Motion and Arlington, Virginia-based NTP Inc., which has won a court ruling that the BlackBerry device infringes its intellectual property, fell apart in June. A U.S. federal judge is currently considering whether that agreement is still enforceable. If it’s not, U.S. District Judge James Spencer in Richmond, Virginia would hold hearings on whether to shut down the service in the U.S.
“While we believe there is little risk of legal success for Inpro winning the case based on our discussions, the cases in Europe shed light on why RIM is battling so fiercely with NTP,” Misek said. “A slew of copycat lawsuits could cost the company millions unless it can show little willingness to give into greenmail.”
Inpro declined to comment on the case.
Research In Motion’s stock has fallen 21 percent this year amid declining growth and concern about how the NTP case will be resolved. The company said on Nov. 23 subscriber growth will be 8 percent less than it expected this quarter and will trail its estimates by 3 percent next quarter.
Inpro claims in both the U.K. and German lawsuits that Research In Motion and T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG, are infringing a patent relating to a proxy system used by computers accessing servers on the Internet, according to Research In Motion. Research In Motion alleges that earlier inventions cover the patent’s claims and is asking the High Court to revoke the patent.
Inpro’s German patent infringement action is currently scheduled to open in January.
The U.K. case, HC0500402 Research in Motion v Inpro Licensing S.A.R.L & anr, is being argued in front of Justice Nicholas Pumfrey at the High Court in London and is expected to last five days.