RIM Co-CEO says NTP “workaround” details out soon

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BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. will soon be able to disclose details of a software “workaround” it believes will prevent a shutdown of its U.S. service resulting from its patent fight with NTP Inc., RIM’s co-chief executive said on Monday. RIM’s Jim Balsillie also said he believes the Canadian technology firm was vindicated by “non-final” U.S. patent office rulings last week that struck down two NTP patents.

“We hope and trust the courts will consider these developments. If they don’t, we do a software workaround and we keep our business going as we always have, as we always will,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“We’re pretty close to a time where we’ll be able to disclose (details of) that.”

Closely held NTP, a patent holding company, successfully sued RIM for patent infringement in 2002 and won an injunction in 2003 to shut down its U.S. service. The injunction was stayed pending an appeal process that has now been largely exhausted.

But RIM received a piece of good news last week when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week issued a “non-final action” rejecting two of the five NTP patents at the center of the original dispute.

Earlier this year, it completed an initial reexamination and issued “first office actions” rejecting all five NTP patents.

RIM and NTP announced a $450 million settlement in March but the deal fell apart in June, and the court has since ruled there was no “valid and enforceable” settlement agreement.

Balsillie declined to say whether settlement talks with NTP were still on.

“I cannot talk about stuff that is covered under mediation privilege, but I will say that’s what so exciting about all of this is obviously there was enormous vindication of RIM by the patent office last week,” he said.

Balsillie raised the prospect of a settlement in the case in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, which also criticized NTP’s tactics.

“We’ve always tried to be reasonable. We’ve always fought to consider the best interests of our shareholders and stakeholders,” he told Reuters.

“Heck, we even put half a billion dollars on the table and he declared it wasn’t good enough. It’s not like we haven’t tried to be reasonable.”

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