RIM sues back, and courts small business

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) has hit back inits new legal battle, and launched BlackBerry Enterprise ServerExpress, a bid to attract small businesses.

The company, which settled a patent suit with NTP for $612.5million in March, has countersued in the new challenge it facesfrom Visto.

RIM has asked for three of Visto’s patents to be invalidated,and said that it will “consider asserting its own patents againstVisto” – moves very reminiscent of the early stages of itslong-running struggle against NTP.

Visto sued RIM after a court found that a third mobile emailplayer, Seven Networks, had infringed its patent, and ordered Sevento pay $3.6 million damages. Seven is the number two player inmobile email, with around a million users, compared to RIM’s 5million.

Visto shouldn’t count its chickens, though, as Seven hopes toreverse the earlier judgement. “We don’t expect to pay any money,”said Paul Hedman, managing director EMEA of Seven. “We will beshipping a workaround in the next version which will not use thedisputed technology.”

BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is a downloadable versionof the server, aimed at small businesses, instead of the largecompanies that have been RIM’s main customer base so far. Thesoftware can be used for free, as long as the user company only hasone BlackBerry handset attached to it. Even for one user, it shouldbe an improvement over the BlackBerry Internet Server which isadministered by third-party operators.

The Small Business Edition will support up to 15 users, if thecompany buys licences for them, and users can buy a software keythat upgrades it to a full BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Despite this move to encourage BlackBerry use in smallbusinesses, RIM is still hampered by the limitation to expensivehandsets – its BlackBerry Connect scheme to put clients on otherphones has not been a huge success as yet. “To reach a mass market,mobile email must be available on a broad range of handsets,” saidHedman.

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