Motorola demands BlackBerry import ban

Motorola Inc. (NYSE:MOT) has alleged Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion Ltd. (TSE:RIM) is infringing on its patents and is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to stop RIM from selling certain BlackBerry products in the U.S.

A RIM spokesperson said the BlackBerry maker “typically declines comment on litigation.”

In a press release Motorola said the patents “relate to certain early-stage innovations developed by Motorola in key technology areas, such as Wi-Fi access, application management, user interface and power management …”

The allegations have not been proven.
A spokesperson for Schaumberg, Ill.-based Motorola said “most or all RIM products use at least one of the Motorola patents cited in the complaint filed with the ITC.”
The ITC is a U.S. agency that enforces international trade laws.

Motorola is asking the ITC to stop imports of the “infringing products,” to stop further sales of products already imported, and to stop RIM from marketing those products in the U.S.

Although ITC’s main mandate is to investigate complaints and forward findings to Congress, the U.S. President and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Motorola has asked for an “exclusion order” against RIM.

“Ban the sale of BlackBerry in the U.S.? I think it’s extremely unlikely,” said Mark Tauschek, lead analyst at the London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group. “Before that ever came to pass they would have to be at a complete impasse in negotiating a cross-licensing agreement.”

The complaint has been filed but not published by the ITC.

Tauschek said Motorola’s complaint likely stemmed from an agreement between RIM and Motorola in which Motorola got permission to use nine RIM patents, in exchange for RIM using Motorola intellectual property in its products.

“What RIM is saying is, ‘We had this cross-licensing  agreement, we’re using your intellectual property, you’re using our intellectual property, everybody’s happy,’ Tauschek said. “I assume what happened is Motorola said, ‘We can get some money out of this, our patents are more important that RIM’s patents,’ or something like that and RIM said, ‘No, let’s keep the status quo,’ and Motorola likely said no.”

This is not the first time RIM has run into trouble over a patent dispute.

Three years ago, RIM agreed to pay NTP Inc. $612.5 million to settle a patent claim.

NTP, which had not built any products at the time, had filed a claim in U.S. District Court in Virginia alleging RIM infringed on 16 of its patents. NTP had requested an injunction that would force RIM to shut down its BlackBerry service in the U.S.

NTP’s suit, initially filed Nov. 2001, resulted in an injunction against RIM two years later. That injunction was stayed pending an appeal by RIM, which RIM lost in late 2005. The $612.5 million agreement was reached the following year, when RIM agreed to pay a licensing fee.
Motorola’s complaint against RIM came three months after Nokia Inc. sued Apple Inc. over the iPhone.

Last year Espoo, Finland-based Nokia alleged Apple’s iPhone uses intellectual property owned by Nokia, including wireless data, speed encoding and encryption.

Then in early January, camera maker Eastman Kodak Co. (NYSE:EK) of Rochester, N.Y. filed intellectual property complaints against both Apple and RIM with the ITC. Kodak alleged Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and RIM violated a Kodak patent of technology that lets users preview images.

“It’s starting off as a litigious year,” Tauschek said. “They’re basically saying, ‘You guys are doing well, and in our minds you are doing it on the back of our intellectual property and we’re going to stop you.’ I don’t see it going away any time soon.”

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