Sunday, January 29, 2006

Blackberry service likely to survive after Feb. 06

Most experts don't expect Blackberry service to be shut down. RIM could perform a design-around, or simply settle with NTP.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Though the judge could decide to cut off service to about 3 million U.S. BlackBerry users, experts do not think that will happen.

"The likelihood of the BlackBerry getting shut down is very slim, certainly less than a 10 percent chance," said Todd Kort, principal analyst at research firm Gartner Inc.

"Hopefully it won't come to that, but maybe [BlackBerry users] should be mildly concerned," said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor specializing in patent litigation.

He said a decision won't necessarily be made on Feb. 24, and the judge has some time to consider the case before writing an opinion. Spencer also could ask the two sides to continue trying to find a solution.

Government workers would be exempt from any restriction in service, according to a promise by NTP.

In court filings, NTP has said an injunction would not apply to members of federal, state and local governments or emergency workers.

But RIM has said it has no way of creating a "white list" to ensure that BlackBerry service for the roughly 1 million government officials and first-responders in the United States would continue. It said NTP's theory that an exception can be made for the group "is both unsupported and contrary to reality," according to court documents.

NTP has said it would ask the court to give BlackBerry users 30 days to find alternatives.

But they are by far the most popular of the wireless e-mail devices, holding more than half the U.S. market and still growing, Gartner's Kort said. Behind BlackBerry is chief rival Palm Inc.'s Treo.

Many other RIM competitors have been touting their products and services as worthy alternatives in the event of a blackout.

The Richmond suit is playing out against the backdrop of a case before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is re-examining the disputed patents and could rule in favor of the BlackBerry maker, according to court documents and published reports.

Unlike with the Eolas matter, claims of the NTP patents have been narrowed in re-examination and currently stand rejected. However, NTP gets to respond to the final Office Action, AND would be able to appeal. No final certificate in a re-exam issues until appeals are exhausted.

[IPBiz post 1200]


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