June 16, 2005 6:17 PM PDT

RIM creates patent workaround

Research In Motion has come up with a "workaround" to skirt patents at the center of its legal battle with NTP, and the technology could be used with all existing BlackBerry email devices, the firm's co-chief executive said on Thursday.

"We've completed the workaround," RIM chairman and co-CEO Jim Balsillie told CNET's News.com. "We've tested it and we have a legal opinion on it. We have it as an option."

In a phone interview, Balsillie declined to give specifics on the technology, citing both companies' nondisclosure agreements and RIM's so-called quiet period prior to announcing its earnings.

Balsillie said he is prepared to win the long-running legal battle and was encouraged that the director of the U.S. Patent Trademark office asked that four of the five patents in dispute be reexamined--a process that could take years.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, which helped popularize mobile e-mailing with its thumb-operated BlackBerry, rattled investors earlier this month with news it failed to finalize a $450 million patent dispute settlement with closely held U.S.-based patent holding company NTP.

The patent deal would have resolved the bitter and potentially damaging dispute. The impasse revives the risk of a court injunction that would halt U.S. sales of RIM's flagship wireless e-mail device.

"I'm not trying to change the deal, we are trying to finalize it," Balsillie said. "There are so many shades of gray in this case, but we expect the courts to uphold the agreement."

NTP successfully sued RIM in 2002 for patent infringement, winning an injunction in 2003 to halt U.S. BlackBerry sales that was stayed pending appeals.

In December, a U.S. appeals court upheld the patent infringement finding against RIM, but said part of the earlier ruling was flawed and sent the case back to a lower court.

The Canadian company agreed in March to pay $450 million, believed to be one of the largest such settlements, and it predicted the negotiation of a final settlement within weeks.

RIM has now asked a U.S. court to enforce the terms of the March deal. NTP opposes that and says the earlier deal did not constitute a meeting of minds.

In a court filing this week, RIM said the continued litigation "places a cloud of uncertainty" over its business and its ability to supply its technology.

"There's been an effort certainly by people to sort of cast uncertainty (on) our business and we don't want that. And that was part of the motivation for doing the original settlement," Balsillie said.

"We're not trying to change the settlement. We're not trying to pay less. We're not trying to modify the scope. And we really want to put this thing behind us."

Balsillie declined to speculate on when the RIM will hear back from the U.S. courts on the issue. He also said RIM was keeping its eye out for smaller acquisitions that would augment its technology.

"We're not contemplating at this time a big monster acquisition, something that is dramatically outside of our current strategy," he said.

Shares of RIM closed up 2.5 percent, or $1.77, at $73.78 on Nasdaq on a volume of more than 8.4 million. In Toronto, the stock rose C$1.89 to C$91.14.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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RIM BlackBerry Push a Link Work-Around Reviewed - Revealed
There are a few dozen companies that have seen the RIM work-around and the specification under an NDA, I included. I wont elaborate on when, where or details that might give away my ID but I will attempt to give you enough information to set your heart at ease that the BlackBerry work-around isnt such a big deal at all  IMO.

Proto Types

There are (as far as I have seen) two versions. One is indistinguishable from the current service (The StealthBerry) and the other is far more interesting and introduces more features (dubbed The Blackcherry or The StrawBerry) that will be integrated into future models if a settlement is not reached with NTP. Ill attempt to describe the latter product first.

Appearance, Function, Ease of use of the Blackcherry

After the standard alert, I picked up the BlackCherry prototype and the preview screen looked very traditional. It included a list of email headers. The headers contained the name of the sender, the subject, the date and time received, an attachment indicator and an importance level indicator. I believe (but do not recall for certain) that there was an indicator for the type of email (Fax, Video, Gif, etc.) but I may have been looking at the attachment file header itself. Either way, it was very informative and if anything it was an improvement as far as a preview screens goes.

At the preview screen were several soft key options. They were: view, forward, reply, move, and delete all. The view key (after selecting a header) brought up the selected email. I noticed a slight delay before the first page was displayed (almost 2 seconds). The forward key allowed for forwarding an email to another recipient. The reply allowed for replying before viewing the email (not sure why anyone would do that), the move key is provided for moving an email to another folder (never tried that), and finally, the delete key deleted the header and the email on our corporate server (ability to delete spam while waiting at the airport). All-in-all, the demo BlackCerry service was the same or better than before, except for the slight delay after selecting the view key. There are only minor user interface changes (mostly positive) and the learning curve is negligible. Personally, I dont believe updated instructions will be required. The updated Blackberry service is still very intuitive, maybe even more so.

Required updates

There are no software updates required for the Stealth or the Blackcherry handsets. The new BlackCherry has revised firmware. The BES remains unchanged (no updates). The work-around is actually preformed at the NOC in Canada. My understanding is, the NOC update is very minor. Ill talk more about that later.

Security

As presented, there are absolutely no changes to any security features or security specifications whatsoever.

Technical Description

This is (in my opinion) the best part. The only change at the NOC is  The email headers are pushed to the handset (like a link to the email), vs. the headers and the first page or two of the email body. The resulting effect is, the Blackberry recipient receives a notification of an email (i.e. who it was from, the subject, the description and a ton of other information describing the email but not the actual email. Then, based on information displayed within the header, the subscriber determines an appropriate function, such as view the selected message. When the subscriber selects view, the body of the email is retrieved and then displayed, a process that takes 1-2 seconds. The effect is indistinguishable from the current Blackberry service. In other words its a push  pull system. The headers are pushed and the body is pulled. Believe it or not, its that simple and the result is invisible to the subscriber.

Market Trials

From what I have been able to ascertain, more than 160,000 subscribers are currently and unknowingly experiencing the Stealth service. The actual market trials are being conducted in countries other than the U.S. Only 0.5% of these subscribers have voiced any dissatisfaction relevant to the slight delay introduced during retrieval of the email or noticeable differences at all. Better than 99% seem to go on with their Blackberry life as usual  According to the perfectly honed speech.

The Work-Around

The NTP patents have (at the very least) a singular weakness. They are all limited to a one way (push) email systems. At the time the NTP Patents were filed, two-way pagers had yet to be invented and they were not contemplated by the NTP patents. Hence, NTPs inventions do not cover a two-way pager or system that would be required to push only the header (not the actual email message) to the pager and enable retrieval of remotely stored email based on a transmission from the pager  One-way pagers cannot transmit anything.

Information about the NTP one-way paging system can be found at the links below.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.virginiabusiness.com/magazine/yr2005/sep05/law.shtml" target="_newWindow">http://www.virginiabusiness.com/magazine/yr2005/sep05/law.shtml</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1126688711482" target="_newWindow">http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1126688711482</a>


Why the Wait?

I have no idea what they are waiting for. Perhaps they have filed their own patents on the push-pull system and they are waiting for them to get approved or there is some other strategic reasoning.

Final review *****
Posted by Spoing (2 comments )
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