A U.S. judge said he will set a date in January on a hearing to determine if he should shut down the BlackBerry e-mail service in the U.S. because the maker of the device, Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), lost a patent-infringement lawsuit to NTP Inc.
U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer today ordered the two sides to submit court papers by Jan. 17 on the issue of a possible injunction and damages in the case, and responses are due Feb. 1. The hearing would be on NTP's bid to shut down the existing BlackBerry sales and service after a jury finding of infringement and failed settlement talks. Spencer presided over the November 2002 trial in Richmond, Virginia.
Research In Motion, based in Waterloo, Ontario, is appealing the jury finding to the U.S. Supreme Court and has asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the NTP patents. Three of the five that were in the trial have received so-called ``non- final'' rejections. Spencer has declined to put the case on hold until either of those issues is decided.
The Justice Department can submit papers by Feb. 1 on its position concerning ``the scope and timing of implementing an injunction, if granted,'' Spencer said in his scheduling order.
By law, an injunction could not affect the government. At issue will be who would be considered exempt, and how Research In Motion would be able to segregate its users.
The company says it has developed a new design that would allow the BlackBerry to continue operations if the judge halts the current system. Research In Motion Co-Chief Executive Officer James Balsillie said Nov. 16 that a ``workaround'' is being tested, although he didn't provide details.
NTP would be able to argue to Spencer that the system still relies upon NTP's patented technology.
The case is NTP Inc. v. Research In Motion Ltd., 01cv767, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).
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