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Despite Reprieve, BlackBerry Shutdown Threat Still Looms For Users

While U.S. District Judge James Spencer declined to issue an immediate injunction on Friday that would prevent Research In Motion Ltd. from selling its BlackBerry devices and service in the United States, millions of users are still not safe from a possible shutdown of the service.

Judge Spencer held a hearing in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, which examined NTP Inc.'s claims that RIM infringed on its wireless E-mail patents. After numerous court hearings and RIM's failed attempt to have the case reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, Friday's hearing ended with more uncertainty. Judge Spencer didn't issue an immediate injunction, but said RIM had violated NTP's patents. He would issue a decision on an injunction as soon as possible, he said.

Meanwhile, many BlackBerry users are putting together contingency plans in case the judge changes his mind in the coming weeks.

Construction management and general contracting firm Barton Malow Co. has relied on the BlackBerry service for nearly two years and deployed the devices to 60 of its workers, including company executives, business developers, and project managers. "BlackBerrys are really mission-critical for our line of business, so you can imagine the impact of a shutdown," says Barton Malow's CIO, Phil Go.

Barton Malow, however, is better prepared than most other businesses that still believe an injunction will be an unlikely outcome of RIM and NTP's patent litigation lawsuit. Barton Malow already put together a contingency plan. The company began testing Treo and Samsung mobile devices with Good Technology's wireless E-mail service. "Our back end is ready, and we plan to transition our workers from the BlackBerry if there is an injunction," says Go.

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