Surprised this has not been discussed in more detail here, with an injunction looming. Here is one of the most informative artices i've read.
Posted on Monday, November 7, 2005
On the Road Again
A court decision could squeeze your Berry
By Douglas Hanks III
Listen up, CrackBerry addicts.
That's the nickname for those who can't stop checking e-mail on their BlackBerry devices, which essentially combine a computer with a cellphone.
But an ongoing lawsuit could force the maker of the BlackBerry to shut down service across the country and force BlackBerry users to go cold turkey. That could be quite the nightmare scenario for business travelers who can basically telecommute via BlackBerry from all over the country.
The financial press has certainly covered BlackBerry's legal problems, but the issue hasn't received the kind of front-page attention that addicts might crave.
In 2003, a small wireless e-mail firm won an injunction against BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion ordering the Canadian company to halt BlackBerry sales and service in the United States because of a patent infringement. That injunction was suspended while RIM appealed, and an appeals court has asked the trial judge to reconsider his injunction based on a few points of law.
This week the trial judge will schedule proceedings that could lead to the injunction being enforced -- a move that would essentially strip BlackBerry devices of their e-mail capability. Meanwhile, RIM says that if it doesn't win in court, it still can adjust its technology to keep BlackBerrys running.
But as with all things legal and all things technical, it gets a bit complicated. On The Road Again spoke to people either involved in the case or tracking it (some would speak on the record and some wouldn't) in an effort to get some questions answered.
Q: If I own a BlackBerry, how worried should I be about my service?
A: Probably just a little bit.
For sure, the injunction would be disastrous for RIM and force it to shut down e-mail service to its BlackBerrys. But analysts doubt RIM would ever let it get to that point. Instead, they expect the company to settle with the plaintiff, NTP.
NTP claims to have patented the technology behind BlackBerry's e-mail service. It wants RIM to pay it licensing fees for that technology. The judge in the case has ruled NTP deserves the royalties.
But since NTP no longer sells any products itself, it needs royalties and licensing fees from others to make money. And BlackBerry, the biggest seller of portable e-mail devices, could become its biggest customer. So NTP has a big financial interest in seeing BlackBerry sales continue.
''RIM always has the escape hatch,'' said Tom Carulli, a patent attorney following the case for investment analysts. ``But only because their opponent is in the licensing business.''
Q: What's the next big date to watch?
A: The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge James Spencer, holds a scheduling conference in Richmond this Wednesday to set deadlines for lawyers to file their briefs regarding a final injunction. Depending on when those are due, he could be able to issue a final (and enforceable) injunction by Christmas.
Q: If RIM loses, what happens next?
A: RIM is expected to appeal. The big question will be whether Spencer or a higher court suspends the injunction again. If not, then RIM claims it has a software ''work around'' that would let it continue BlackBerry service.
But RIM has so far refused to provide any details on the alleged fix. Some analysts are skeptical it would be practical or easy enough to prevent customers from just switching to another service.
Speaking of which, it's unlikely an injunction would force RIM to do anything immediately. In similar cases, judges have provided grace periods of 30 days or so to let customers switch to another service or product. Courts, in general, do not like to create massive disruptions in commerce.
Q: I'm a pessimist. What's the worst-case scenario?
A: BlackBerry refuses to settle, loses and is forced to shut down its e-mail service. Competitors, including Nokia and Microsoft, will probably step up with deals to lure BlackBerry's 3.6 million customers their way.
Q: Where can I follow all of this obsessively?
A: Try www.blackberry
forums.com. There are discussions on all things BlackBerry. Talk about being hooked. . . .