RIM Seeks Court Intervention on Settlement with NTP

The BlackBerry maker says the two companies could not reach a final settlement over their patent dispute.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. said Thursday it has reached an impasse in its patent settlement with NTP Inc. and asked the courts to intervene.

In March it appeared as if the four-year patent dispute had ended when the two companies announced in a statement that RIM had agreed to pay $450 million to the Arlington, Va.-based patent holding company as long as NTP granted "RIM and its customers an unfettered right to continue its BlackBerry-related wireless business without further interference from NTP or its patents."

But RIM said that upon further discussions the two could not reach a final settlement, and Wednesday RIM filed a motion to stay a pending appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and to hand over the matter to a district court to enforce the settlement terms.

"We are extremely disappointed—and I am personally extremely disappointed—that this matter, which we believed was resolved, has been reopened by NTP," said RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie, in a conference call Thursday.

NTP late Thursday filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to oppose RIMs motion. NTP claims that in March both parties agreed that further negotiations were necessary to settle the agreement.

"Unfortunately, it very quickly became evident that the parties had interpreted the vague term sheet in entirely different manners regarding virtually every significant provision," said NTPs brief. "For example, the parties had significant differences in the scope of the non-exclusive license grant and RIMs ability to sublicense NTPs patents and thereby deprive NTP of additional royalties."

RIMs Balsillie, however, contends that the terms laid out in March were "clear and unambiguous."

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about the March settlement.

RIM has been embroiled in a legal battle with NTP since 2001, when NTP charged in a lawsuit that it owns the patents on wireless technology used in RIMs popular BlackBerry devices and server software.

In August 2003, a U.S. court awarded NTP $53.7 million in damages and ordered an injunction that would prevent RIM from making, selling or servicing its devices and server software in the United States.

That injunction, however, was stayed while RIM appealed the decision. In December, a U.S. appeals court upheld 11 of NTPs patent infringement claims against RIM but sent the entire case back to a lower court to review five other claims.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office recently invalidated two of the five patents in NTPs suit against RIM. A decision on the remaining patents is expected by the end of September, said Balsillie.

/zimages/1/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.