A federal judge has refused the government’s request for a hearing on how a proposed shutdown of BlackBerry service in the U.S. would work, removing a potential delay in halting use of the portable e-mail device. The government, exempt from any shutdown, asked the judge to hear testimony and gather evidence on a proposal to shut down non-government BlackBerry service. Government lawyers sought proof that government functions, such as communications with federal contractors, wouldn’t be impaired. BlackBerry has 3.2 million U.S. customers.
A jury ruled in 2002 that Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry service infringes patents of NTP Inc. U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer scheduled a hearing on Friday for arguments by the two companies and the government on whether U.S. BlackBerry service should be shut down as a result.
“This could mean the judge isn’t willing to take into account the government’s argument that this could be disruptive to their service,” said Pablo Perez-Fernandez, director of research at Sagio Investments in Switzerland. “On the other hand, it could mean he has decided an injunction is not appropriate, or he doesn’t buy the government argument and an injunction is necessary.”
NTP, based in Arlington, Va., is seeking the injunction after a federal appeals court in December 2004 upheld part of a jury’s 2002 infringement finding.