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RIM and Motorola tussle over BlackBerry

19 февраля 2008

A patent dispute has broken out between Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, and Motorola, the US mobile phone maker.

Motorola sued RIM on Saturday, claiming the BlackBerry violates seven US patents covering mobile-communications technology. The suit claims RIM “willfully”’ infringed the patents, causing “irreparable harm.”

Meanwhile RIM, which has about 12m BlackBerry subscribers worldwide including more than 8m in North America, filed suit in federal court in Dallas accusing Motorola of ”anti-competitive conduct” by demanding ”unreasonable” royalties for several patents Motorola owns and RIM currently licenses.

In its suit, filed in Marshall, Texas, Motorola asks the federal judge to order RIM to stop using the disputed technology. Motorola is also seeking cash compensation for past infringement of the patents.

The lawsuit targets RIM’s latest models including the popular BlackBerry Pearl and Curve devices, as well as the BlackBerry Exchange Server software – the corporate software at the core of the BlackBerry push-email service.

The disputed technology covers several different features of Blackberry devices including the way they store contact information; recognise incoming phone numbers; control access to new applications; and aspects of the handset ‘interface,’ according to the court papers.

RIM’s suit against Motorola, which also sells a range of thumb-operated Qwerty keyboard-based smartphones under the Motorola ‘Q’ brand, claims that the company infringed on several of its patents and tried to extract ”excessive licensing” fees from patents that Motorola owns.

RIM is asking the court to find that Motorola has violated an agreement that it says required it to license those patents on reasonable terms and to determine that Motorola has infringed several of its own patents, including a patent for a mobile device ”with a keyboard optimised for use with the thumbs.”

The patent dispute between the two companies is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed that relate to the fast expanding market for wireless email and smartphones equipped with mini Qwerty keyboards.

RIM paid $612.5m in 2006 to settle a four-year long patent dispute with NTP, a Washington-based patent holding firm, which had claimed its patents covered technology used in BlackBerry devices. The settlement narrowly averted a court-ordered shutdown of the BlackBerry e-mail service across the US.

The Eastern District of Texas, where Motorola’s complaint was filed, was the second-most-favourable jurisdiction for patent owners who sued from 1995 to 2006, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP study last year. Only the Western District of Wisconsin was found to be more favourable.

Research In Motion has more than 8m subscribers in North America. AT&T, Verizon Wireless and other phone companies pay the Waterloo, Ontario-based company a fee of about $6 a month for each subscriber that uses BlackBerry e-mail.

Источник: Financial Times

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