Supreme Court Passes on Hearing RIM Case

The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear a petition from Canada’s Research in Motion (RIM) to review a federal appeals court ruling which could lead to a shutdown of the company’s BlackBerry wireless networking in the United States.

Since 2002, RIM has been fighting an increasingly charged court battle with NTP, a patent holding company which claims existing patents covering aspects of wireless network services used by the company’s BlackBerry network. Though the case has been significantly protracted through court motions, settlement negotiations, and complicated legal maneuverings, RIM has consistently lost ground to NTP during the patent infringement trial and appeal processes, leading many analysts to speculate RIM would have to pay astronomical fees to NTP to license its patents in order to continue to operate the BlackBerry network, or develop and deploy non-infringing alternative technology.

The companies reached a $450 million settlement in June 2005 which would have let the BlackBerry network continue to operate; however, the settlement was ruled invalid in November 2005, reinstating an injunction against RIM. RIM’s appeal to the Supreme Court aimed to enforce the terms of the June 2005 settlement agreement.

RIM’s situation has recently been buoyed by findings of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which has preliminarily invalidated some of NTP’s patents; however, to date the U.S. court system has not indicated any willingness to alter its schedule or process to accommodate the USPTO’s re-researching.