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Wireless Propagator: RIM Gets Dinged

Waterloo, Ontario-based Research in Motion (RIM) has been meticulously covered--
perhaps plastered--by the press in the last few weeks. And the news has not been
all accolades. Like most new companies that have grown out of startup mode and
made it big, this wireless mobile e-mail leader has been targeted by those
companies looking to share a little bit of the upstart's success.

The biggest hoopla has surrounded the three-plus year legal battle with NTP Inc.
over patented wireless radio-frequency technologies that NTP claims are in RIM's
systems. Wrangling started in November 2001 and a jury in 2002 ruled in favor of
NTP, awarding that company damages. RIM appealed the verdict and submitted the
patents to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for re-examination, but
in March 2005 it reached a $450 million settlement action. Less than three months
later that deal fell apart after RIM and NTP were unable to finalize settlement
details based on March's abridged agreement. The movement between upper and
lower courts, filings and appeals has been dizzying, but newly appointed U.S.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts last week denied RIM's motion to review
the currently suspended injunction. NTP had previously requested that injunction to
prevent RIM from providing BlackBerry wireless services to its largest customer
base, found just south of the Canadian border in the United States.

The twist in this ongoing legal escapade is that the USPTO at the end of September
issued an initial ruling rejecting all claims NTP made on eight patents, as it
previously had done with seven other examined claims. NTP is appealing some or all
of these rejections, so the final word has not been given, but from a layman's
perspective it seems to undermine the verdict against RIM. In the meantime, NTP
could possibly succeed in enforcing a new injunction based on Justice Roberts'

All this is just the beginning. A few other past and present concerns continue to
linger for RIM. In September 2005, Eatoni Ergonomics filed a lawsuit against the
company relating to a patent tying together predictive text and the use of a
QWERTY keyboard. Unlike most smartphones, which may use predictive-text
technology but have only 12 keys, the new BlackBerry 7100 (a narrower version of
RIM's familiar hardware) introduced SureType(TM) technology, which uses two or
three characters per key laid out in QWERTY-like fashion. RIM said it has no
comment on pending litigation.

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