BlackBerry vendor RIM loses e-mail patent case

Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), the vendor of the popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, has lost a court case brought by a company called NTP Inc. which alleged that RIM’s products and services infringed on NTP patents. RIM said in a statement that it will challenge the verdict.

A jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered RIM to pay US$23 million in damages to NTP, a figure that could be increased if it were to be found that RIM had “wilfully” infringed the patents. NTP filed a complaint in November 2001, alleging that certain RIM products infringed on patents held by NTP covering the use of radio-frequency wireless communications in e-mail systems.

In a statement, RIM said it believed the jury verdict was wrong as both a matter of law and fact and was unduly prejudiced by errors in the court’s pre-trial and trial rulings. The verdict is not final and that it is only one step in a continuing legal process that could take several years or more to finally resolve, RIM said.

RIM has been active in protecting its own intellectual property over the past year. It has filed four lawsuits against Good Technology Inc., citing a number of complaints including misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition.

In September, RIM sued handheld maker Handspring Inc. for patent infringement regarding the keyboard of Handspring’s Treo device. That lawsuit has now been settled.

In 2001, RIM sued Glenayre Electronics Inc. for infringing an RIM patent entitled “System and method for pushing information from a host system to a mobile data communication device having a shared electronic address.”

The verdict does not affect the validity and enforceability of RIM’s own patents, the company said in a statement.