The US Patent and Trademark Office has struck a blow for RIM in its long-running battle with NTP. According to the BlackBerry manufacture, the office has issued what is known as a final office action, rejecting all claims by NTP on one of its disputed patents.

This is the first decision of this type by the Patent Office, which has rejected all of the NTP patents in question in previous preliminary rulings, known as initial and second office actions.

Those rejections have been based in part on what's called "prior art" or other facts and information that was not considered in the 2002 federal trial that found RIM guilty of infringing the NTP patents.

NTP is a patent holding company, which filed the suit charging that BlackBerry devices and mobile e-mail service violated US patents previously issued to one of NTP's founders.

The Patent Office has put these final decisions on a fast track in the high profile case. RIM and NTP are scheduled to appear Friday before a federal judge who will rule on a possible injunction that could shut down the BlackBerry service for some or all US customers, and possibly decide what damages RIM will pay to its adversary. It's unclear what effect, if any, the Patent Office decisions will have on US District Court Judge James Spencer's handling of the long-running battle.

According to a statement on RIM's website, the patent in this Final Office Action, No. 6,067,451, contains two of the nine claims still in dispute. A different patent contains six claims in dispute, and a third patent contains one. RIM said it expected a Final Office Action confirming the rejection of this third patent soon.