A keyboard manufacturer is suing RIM over the Blackberry, claiming patent infringement.

Eatoni Ergonomics has filed a lawsuit against RIM in Texas. The company holds a patent that it claims covers mobile keyboards with a "qwerty" design that use predictive text technology.

The BlackBerry 7100 uses a predictive-text technology that RIM calls SureType to help eliminate typing errors and speed up letter entry when typing e-mail or text messages. Eatoni has developed similar technology called LetterWise and WordWise that attempts to guess the word a user is trying to enter using a mobile phone or qwerty keypad.

The idea behind predictive text technology is to reduce the number of keystrokes needed to enter a word and improve spelling without having to resort to the text-message shorthand largely indecipherable to people over the age of 30. Individual buttons on mobile phones can represent up to four separate letters. Although RIM's Blackberry 7100 uses a qwerty layout where most of its buttons represent two letters.

Other mobile phone vendors use qwerty keyboards on smart phones or wireless personal digital assistants, but Eatoni believes the BlackBerry 7100's combination of the qwertykeyboard and the predictive text technology infringes upon its patents, the spokesman said.

RIM's lawyers are no strangers to the court room of late. The company is defending itself against a separate patent suit filed by NTP, which claims that the entire BlackBerry push e-mail system infringes on NTP's patents.

That case has taken several twists and turns over the past few years. At present, RIM and NTP are preparing for a hearing in Virginia that will determine if NTP can be granted an injunction on sales of the BlackBerry devices, while at the same time NTP is appealing several decisions by the US Patent and Trademark Office to invalidate NTP's patents.