Just weeks after scoring valuable licensing deals with the likes of Nokia,
Palm and Handspring, Canada-based Research in Motion
body-slammed with a $23 million judgment for infringing patents owned by NTP.
The Blackberry e-mail device maker halted trading in its shares late
Thursday after a U.S. jury in the District of Virginia ruled in favor of NTP
and ordered RIM to pay $23.1 million for infringing on five patents owned by
NTP. RIM was accused of violating eight NTP patents.
The ruling could have serious ramifications for RIM, particularly in sales
of its Blackberry devices in the U.S. Lawyers for the Illinois-based NTP is
moving ahead with a request for an injunction to block RIM from selling the
devices in the U.S.
Reeling from the ruling, RIM said it would appeal with Chief Executive Mike
Lazaridis insisting the verdict has no effect on RIM’s patents and other
“Although we are disappointed that the jury found for NTP at this stage of
the litigation, it is important to understand that this verdict is not final
and that it is only one step in a continuing legal process that could take
several years or more to formally and finally resolve,” Lazaridis said.
“If the verdict is accepted, we will appeal. The validity and enforceability
of our own patents were never at issue and are not affected at all by this
verdict today,” he added.
RIM attorney Charles Meyer described the jury verdict as “wrong as both a
matter of law and fact,” arguing that it was prejudiced by errors in the
pre-trial and trial rulings.
With a high degree of uncertainty over the future sales of Blackberry
devices in the U.S., analysts believe the legal trouble could hurt RIM’s
Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said the loss of the patent suit
was ironic in that RIM itself frequently litigated others to protect its
patents. “While this will be appealed, it is a setback for the company that
will allow competitors the opportunity to gain on RIM if it becomes overly
distracted in legal battles,” Gartenberg told internetnews.com.
At the very least, the loss of the suit is a serious blow to RIM, coming on
the heels of a trio of patent licensing deals with Nokia
The Handspring deal included the settlement
of a patent dispute over keyboards used on Handsping’s Treo devices. The
deals with Nokia and Palm
deals covered license certain patents for its thumb-operated QWERTY keyboard