Nov. 17 -- NTP Inc., the company suing Research In Motion Ltd. over the BlackBerry e-mail service, and the U.S. government are in talks over how best to deal with any court ruling that shuts down the service in the United States.
The Justice Department filed a court paper Nov. 8 asking that it be consulted before any order is issued against the BlackBerry service as a result of a patent-infringement finding. The government said it wants to make sure BlackBerry service continues for government and emergency workers.
In a filing Nov. 17, NTP said it spoke with the Justice Department Nov. 16 and was told that the government filing "was not intended to take any position" on Research In Motion's bid to have the case put on hold pending other proceedings.
"Rather, the government was only seeking to be advised and heard with respect to consideration of the terms of a renewed injunction when the court permits NTP to move for injunctive relief," NTP lawyer James Wallace wrote. "NTP has no objection to permitting the government to be heard in that process."
U.S. District Judge James Spencer in Richmond, Va., could order a halt to the BlackBerry service in the United States because an appeals court upheld part of a jury finding against Research In Motion. The Waterloo, Canada-based company is appealing the verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Before he rules on any injunction, the judge must determine whether the two sides had reached a binding agreement in which Research In Motion agreed to pay $450 million to NTP, and on Research In Motion's request for the delay until after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reviews the NTP patents.
Spencer said he will rule "swiftly" after receiving papers from both sides, which were due by Nov. 21.
Research In Motion prepared a document that said it would be difficult to provide services only to government and emergency workers. NTP said there are alternate ways to make that separation.
"The government agreed to investigate the feasibility and transition period of NTP's alternative approach expeditiously so that it could be addressed in connection with any proposed injunction," NTP said in response to the government's filing.
Arlington, Va.-based NTP, a patent-licensing firm, was co-founded by Thomas Campana, an electrical engineer who worked on pager and e-mail systems in the 1970s and 1980s. Campana died of cancer in June 2004.
His widow, Joletta, wrote letters to her U.S. senators, Richard Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois, complaining about the government's decision to file a "statement of interest" in the case.
"I do not understand why my own government is acting against me in favor of a Canadian company that has acted so badly," Joletta Campana wrote. "Tom was an American success story -- a veteran who built his own company and contributed to the development of wireless technology. He is entitled to the same patent protection as big companies."
Marisa Conway, Research In Motion spokeswoman at the company's public relations firm Brodeur Worldwide, said the company had no comment on either the Justice Department filing or the NTP response.
Research In Motion's co-chief executive, James Balsillie, said the company has developed a new design that would allow BlackBerry sales to continue even if Spencer issues an order blocking products and services found to infringe the NTP patents.
The case is NTP Inc. v. Research In Motion Ltd., 01cv767, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).