Judge Nudges BlackBerry Closer to Shutdown

U.S. District Judge James Spencer has denied a Department of Justice request for a separate hearing to address government concerns over a possible shutdown of the wireless BlackBerry service in the United States. The DOJ is concerned about the impact of a BlackBerry shutdown on the estimated 1 million government workers who use the service. Although government workers would, in theory, be exempt from a shutdown order, the DOJ wanted an evidentiary hearing to review details of a possible shutdown and limit possible disruption of government operations.

Judge Spencer said the DOJ will have ample opportunity to voice its concerns Friday when final arguments for an injunction will be heard. In rejecting a request for new hearings, Judge Spencer is keeping with his stance to move the long-running trial along according to schedule; the judge once remarked that the patent dispute between NTP Holdings and Canada’s Research in Motion had already taken up far too much of his life.

A delay would potentially have benefitted Research In Motion as it plays for time, hoping the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office invalidates patents claimed by NTP. And a little time may be all it needs: the agency today announced it had mailed a final decision of one of the core patents at issue in the infringement case, although the statement does not say whether the patent was rejected. The USPTO has previously issued preliminary rejections of NTP patents relevant to RIM’s case.