Nokia appears to have undermined a $54 million patent battle against Blackberry makers RIM by agreeing to license wireless technology from another company that RIM is in dispute with.
Shell company NTP possesses several patents and won damages against RIM in 2002 for infringing on them with its Blackberry software. This month, RIM began its appeal against the fine, an 8.55 percent royalty fee on Blackberries and an injunction that would see the company prevented from selling them.
However, Nokia plans to include RIM's technology in its new 6820 smart phone, and has agreed to pay NTP for technology that RIM itself denies NTP has a right to. Nokia has delayed the release of the new phone but has clearly decided that RIM is unlikely to win its appeal and so signed with NTP before resolution of the case. This may well have the effect of pulling the rug from under RIM's feet.
That's not how RIM's CEO claims to see it, however. "We're thrilled beyond thrilled," he told reporters. "There's a very big backlog of orders for the BlackBerry-enabled 6820." He refused to comment on the NTP legal dispute but claimed it was not affecting partnership deals with other companies and he expected the company to double in size in the next year. "I see no reason why we would not be two to four times bigger by this time next year," he said.
RIM's BlackBerry software allows handheld device users to access their corporate e-mail over wireless networks. The technology has been extremely popular on RIM's own handhelds, as well as on other devices from companies such as PalmOne and Nokia.
But in 2002, a US court ruled that the software infringed on patents held by NTP founder Thomas Campana for a wireless pager system. Campana died of cancer at the age of 57 last week, according to his attorney. NTP was formed to protect Campana's patents and its various shareholders who will keep the legal matter going, said James Wallace, an attorney with Wiley Rein & Fielding, representing NTP.
RIM settled a separate round of litigation with competitor Good Technology earlier this year that resulted in undisclosed royalties paid by Good Technology.
Additional reporting by Tom Krazit, IDG News Service