BlackBerry maker Research In Motion on Jan. 30 announced that a German court has ruled in RIMs favor in a lawsuit brought by InPro Licensing, a Luxembourgian patent-holding company.
InPro sued RIM in July 2005, alleging patent infringement with regard to the way BlackBerry devices send and receive data wirelessly. This was a countersuit in response to RIM having sued InPro in an attempt to render the patent invalid.
The Nullity Patent Court in Munich has now ruled in favor of RIM by deciding that all patent claims in InPros German-designated European Patent EP 0892947B1 are invalid, RIM officials said.
InPro retains the right to appeal the decision to the German Federal Supreme Court.
At the same time, InPro has filed a similar suit against RIM in the United Kingdom, which, if InPro won, could threaten BlackBerry service in England.
These suits mirror a much larger case in the United States that threatens to shut down BlackBerry e-mail service here.
Holding company NTP, based in Arlington, Va., sued RIM for alleged patent infringement on nine wireless e-mail patents in 2001.
U.S. District Judge James Spencer ruled in favor of NTP in 2003, instructing RIM to halt its sales of BlackBerry devices and services in the United States until NTPs patents run out in 2012.
Spencer stayed the ruling, however, pending appeal. Since then, the case has gone through several appeals and failed settlement attempts.
In the meantime, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has spent month re-evaluating several of the disputed patents. The USPTO has indicated that it intends to reject all of NTPs claims eventually, in which the case would be null and void, and RIM officials have remained publicly positive that this will happen.
Industry experts said the process could take several months, though, as NTP has voiced plans to appeal every decision it can. Judge Spencer has said he does not intend to wait for the Patent Office before he issues a final ruling.
On Jan. 23, the Supreme Court refused to hear RIMs appeal to stay the case pending the Patent Offices decisions. On Jan. 25, Judge Spencer set a Feb. 24 hearing date in the Eastern District Court of Virginia to consider a possible injunction that could shutter BlackBerry service.
“70 percent of their revenues come from North America,” said Iain Gillott, president of the consultancy iGillottResearch. “The international stuff, while a concern, is not a showstopper. The case with NTP is a showstopper. NTP could destroy RIM, simple as that.”