BlackBerry prospects blackened this week as a U.S. District Judge rejected Research in Motion Ltd.s request to delay an ongoing patent infringement case, but RIM officials continue to insist that everything will be OK.
While a worst-case scenario for RIM means a potential shutdown of BlackBerry service in the United States, RIM officials insist that they have a just-in-case workaround at the ready—a promise that maintained their “buy” rating with Standard & Poors on Wednesday.
NTP Inc., a patent holding firm, sued RIM for patent infringement in 2001. U.S. District Judge James Spencer granted an injunction in favor of NTP in 2003, which included a ruling that RIM halt its sales of BlackBerry devices in the United States until NTPs patents run out.
He stayed the ruling, though pending appeal. Since then the case has gone through several appeals, and RIM is trying to take the case to the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the U.S. Patent Office has been evaluating the validity of NTPs patents. And on Tuesday, Spencer officially denied RIMs request to stay an injunction pending the Patent Offices decision.
He did not, however, carry through with an injunction prohibiting sales of BlackBerrys in the United States. So its still a waiting game. RIM officials remain confident, pointing out that the Patent Office recently sped up its review processes.
“The PTO [Patent and Trademark Office] is going to shut this down in a couple of months,” Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of RIM in Waterloo, Canada, told Ziff Davis Internet.
“The USPTO scheduling letter [publicly posted] indicated that final office actions for all of NTPs patents is imminent. Though NTP can take an appeal to the courts from there, for all intents and purposes, their patents are finished at that point,” said Balsillie.
A spokeswoman for the patent office declined to give a timeframe for a decision, saying only that it is “still pending.”