RIM sued for patent infringement, again

BlackBerry users have another patent lawsuit to worry about.

Just weeks after their service was nearly shut down by a lawsuitbrought by NTP Inc., the wireless e-mail devices are now beingthreatened by legal action brought by software provider VistoCorp.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for theEastern District of Texas, Visto claims that Research In MotionLtd.’s (RIM’s) BlackBerry service violates four Visto patents. Thelawsuit does not seek financial compensation from RIM, but it asksthe court to shut down BlackBerry’s service in the U.S.

The patents in question relate to the accessing andsynchronizing of information over a network and are fundamental tothe BlackBerry service, said Brian Bogosian, Visto’s chairman,president and chief executive officer, speaking during a Mondayconference call. “RIM should not be able to sell the BlackBerrysystem,” he said.

Visto’s lawsuit was filed on the same day a Texas jury awardedthe company US$3.6 million in a similar patent lawsuit againstcompetitor Seven Networks Inc. Three of the four patents in the RIMlawsuit were also invoked in the Seven Networks lawsuit, Vistosaid.

Founded in 1996, Visto’s e-mail and calendaring applications areused by more than 200,000 customers worldwide, and are availablethrough a number of wireless services including those of AT&TInc., Bell Canada Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC.

Though Visto alleges that RIM has been violating its patents foryears, the company had a couple of reasons for waiting until now tofile the lawsuit, Bogosian said. Visto, which is also suingMicrosoft Corp. and Good Technology Inc. for violating some ofthese same patents, did not want to “dilute” its legal resources bylaunching the suit before the Seven Network judgment, he said.

RIM settled its long-running legal battle with NTP in March,paying NTP $612.5 million to settle all of its claims.

This settlement was also a factor in Visto’s decision to moveforward with its own lawsuit, Bogosian said. “There was a verysignificant and real risk that RIM would be shut down,” he said.”In our opinion, it did not make sense to launch a litigation atthat time.”

Visto is now ready for a “protracted battle” against theBlackBerry maker, Bogosian said. The company, based in RedwoodShores, California, has no plans to launch similar lawsuits outsideof the U.S., he added.

Bogosian also left the door open to the possibility of asettlement that would not involve a BlackBerry shutdown, provided”a reasonable resolution” could be found. “We’re also businesspeople,” he said.

Representatives from RIM could not be reached immediately tocomment.