Proposed RIM, NTP settlement not a done dea

The proposed settlement between Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) and NTP Inc. hit a snag Thursday when RIM filed a motion asking an appeals court to enforce the terms of the US$450 million agreement.

NTP holds patents that it believes are infringed by RIM's popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail service and devices. In 2002, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia agreed with NTP and found that RIM willingly violated those patents. While the matter was under appeal earlier this year, the companies appeared to settle their dispute after RIM agreed to pay NTP $450 million and work out the terms of a licensing agreement.

However, a definitive agreement was never reached. RIM believes that the March settlement grants it a perpetual license to NTP's patents and the right to continue doing business without interference from NTP, it said in a release Thursday.

"We believe the term sheet is explicit and clear," said Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-chief executive officer of RIM, on a conference call Thursday. "We are disappointed this matter is still open."

NTP, on the other hand, contends that RIM is just stalling for time with its current motion, believing that continued legal appeals is better than paying the $450 million or facing a possible injunction on its products, according to documents filed by NTP with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Both parties want the appeals court to remand the case to the Virginia court for enforcement of the settlement agreement. However, RIM wants the court to stay its appeal, while NTP wants the court to deny the appeal.

RIM's BlackBerry devices are extremely popular with business executives and e-mail addicts. They allow the user to get their corporate e-mail wirelessly delivered to a handheld device, rather than having to access the corporate network to check for e-mail.

NTP believes its patents cover all aspects of a wireless e-mail delivery system like the BlackBerry, it said during its patent dispute with RIM. RIM's rival Good Technology Inc. and mobile phone maker Nokia Corp. have signed license agreements with NTP.

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