Patent Office ruling backs BlackBerry

Out-Law News | 03 Oct 2005 | 2:15 pm | 1 min. read

The US Patent and Trademark Office has cast doubt on all of the patents involved in a long-running dispute between BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) and holding company NTP Inc, according to RIM.

The USPTO has already issued a preliminary rejection of seven related NTP patents, four of which are the basis of NTP's case. On Thursday it issued a preliminary rejection of the eighth and final patent under re-examination – patent number 6,317,592, which contains five claims relevant to the litigation.

The latest ruling is a boost for RIM, which is battling to avoid the imposition of an injunction prohibiting the Canadian firm from selling in the US the BlackBerry and any other products, software or services using the wireless technology in dispute.

RIM was found guilty of patent infringement in November 2002, when a jury awarded NTP damages of $53.7 million and imposed the injunction – which was then stayed pending an appeal.

The injunction was then lifted by a federal appeals court in August this year, after the court found that the BlackBerry did infringe some of NTP’s patents, but that one of the lower court’s key definitions, relating to the term “originating processor," was too wide. The Court of Appeals therefore returned the case to the District Court for further arguments over the claims that may have been affected by the flawed definition.

RIM hopes that the USPTO rulings, which are completely separate to the litigation process, will boost its arguments before the District Court.

Speaking to Reuters, NTP lawyer James Wallace explained: "It is potentially a long, multiyear process. This was to be expected. This is what we predicted before anything happened in the first seven cases".

The holding firm is expected to appeal the preliminary findings.