Supremes won't hear BlackBerry jurisdiction appeal

Out-Law News | 24 Jan 2006 | 9:56 pm | 1 min. read

The US Supreme Court yesterday refused to rehear a jurisdiction appeal by BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion. Its opponent, NTP Inc., said the decision "closed the final path for RIM to avoid liability" for infringement of its patents.

RIM had asked the Supreme Court to review the dispute because it argued that US patent law should not apply. The company is Canadian and the software implicated in the action is hosted on computers in Canada. RIM reckoned this put it beyond the jurisdiction of US courts.

But the Supreme Court denied RIM's petition without expressing a reason.

A RIM spokeswoman said last night: “RIM has consistently acknowledged that Supreme Court review is granted in only a small percentage of cases and we were not banking on Supreme Court review”.

However, NTP said the Supreme Court's decision "facilitates the expeditious reinstatement of an injunction against RIM's ongoing wilful infringement" – i.e. RIM faces the prospect of a court-imposed ban, shutting down a wireless email service that has almost three million users in the US.

The arguments on whether or not to grant the injunction will be considered by the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in February.

NTP has pointed out that an injunction would not affect usage of BlackBerry devices by US Government entities and is also not applicable to licensed products from NTP licensees such as Good Technology, Nokia and Visto. If granted, other users would receive 30 days' notice.

The timing of the hearing will be crucial for RIM, which is also waiting for a ruling from the US Patent and Trademarks Office as to whether the NTP patents are actually valid. Preliminary rulings from the Patent Office have found that the patents are invalid, and a final ruling is expected within weeks.