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Patent Office ruling boosts BlackBerry case

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) yesterday issued a final rejection of one of three patents at the heart of a dispute between BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion and patent owner NTP. It sounds like good news for RIM; but NTP cautioned against celebration.23 Feb 2006

"This Final Office Action maintains the outright and complete rejection of all claims in the patent," said RIM in a statement yesterday.

The USPTO has already issued preliminary rejections in respect of all three patents involved in the dispute. Together the three patents contain nine disputed claims. Two of these claims were found in the patent rejected yesterday, Patent number 6,067,451.

RIM is hoping to fend off an injunction that would prohibit the Canadian firm from selling in the US the BlackBerry and any other products, software or services using the wireless technology in dispute. It could mean a shutdown of service for existing BlackBerry users in the US.

But despite the granting of a final rejection in respect of one of the patents, NTP was quick to point out that the USPTO re-examination process is far from over.

In a statement yesterday, NTP said the review being carried out by the USPTO is merely the first step in a lengthy process. Any initial determinations are subject to review by the USPTO Board of Patent Appeals, and if necessary, by the federal court system.

“The validity of the patents is not affected by preliminary PTO office actions,” said NTP. “In fact, the PTO itself has previously taken the position that a patent owner 'is not hindered from full enjoyment of his patents during re-examination.'"

The case is due to come before District Court Judge James Spencer tomorrow.

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