BlackBerry users face shutdown as judge rules against RIM

BlackBerry users face shutdown as judge rules against RIM

Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of the popular Blackberry handheld device, may be forced to shut down its US mobile e-mail service after a federal judge rejected its request to enforce a $450 million settlement reached earlier this year with US-based NTP, which holds the patent to the wireless technology.

The settlement relates to a 2002 case when NTP successfully sued RIM for patent infringement. In 2003 NTP won an injunction to halt US sales of the Blackberry device and shut down the service, but the ruling was delayed pending an appeal. An appeals court in August scaled back the infringement ruling against RIM but upheld some of NTP's patent claims.

The two firms reached a $450 million settlement in March this year, but the deal later fell through. Now Judge James Spencer has ruled the deal was not valid anyway. The ruling could lead to an injunction against RIM to stop selling and servicing the handheld devices in the US.

But RIM says it has been developing "software workarounds" as a contingency to keep the service up and running.

According to research by TowerGroup, the court's ruling could have a significant impact on the financial services industry, which currently accounts for eight per cent of the total BlackBerry users.

TowerGroup says it expects RIM and NTP to reach a revised financial settlement in the area of $750 million to $1 billion within the next 30 days.

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