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A federal judge handed BlackBerry addicts a dose of bad news Wednesday when he declined to enforce a truce in a dispute that threatens to shut down Research In Motion’s wireless e-mail service. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Spencer told RIM he wouldn’t enforce a $450 million settlement agreement the Canadian company said it had reached earlier this year with NTP, an Arlington, Va., patent holding company. NTP has been found to be the rightful owner of part of the technology that allows wireless transmission of e-mail. The two companies have been ensnarled in a four-year cross-border patent dispute over the Blackberry technology. RIM, which is represented by Howrey’s Henry Bunsow, released a statement Wednesday saying the company would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review earlier findings that it infringed NTP patents. Lawyers say Spencer’s decision means that Ontario-based RIM more than likely will face a ban on BlackBerry sales in the United States unless the companies reach a new settlement agreement. Lawyers say settlement is an option, but it won’t come cheap: some analysts estimate it could take most of the $1.2 billion RIM has in cash. Because RIM is based in Canada � and some of the alleged infringement may technically take place on its servers outside the United States � patent lawyers say the outcome could redefine the reach of U.S. law. “The Federal Circuit ruling held that some claims were not infringed because a step of the claimed method takes place in Canada,” said Farella Braun & Martel IP and antitrust attorney Roderick Thompson. “It was found not to infringe.” Though that didn’t help RIM, Thompson said other offshore companies may find in it an opportunity to avoid U.S. patent law. Thelen Reid & Priest partner David Ritchie said he’s watching the case closely for a client who wants to know whether U.S. patent laws could be applied to activities outside the United States. “We filed an amicus brief at the court of appeals for the Federal Circuit arguing that what happened in the BlackBerry case was an extraterritorial application of U.S. law and that it wasn’t consistent with federal patent law,” Ritchie said. Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley IP partner Robert Andris said that U.S. patent law generally extends to U.S. borders, but when the activity outside the country is directed toward infringing conduct here, U.S. courts can fashion injunctions or damages. He cited AT&T Corp.’s suit against Microsoft Corp., in which the Federal Circuit allowed damages for cross-border infringement, holding that the software company was liable for copies of an operating system that had been replicated abroad from a master version sent from the United States. “As things get more multinational, the likelihood is that these things will come up again,” Ritchie said. “It could get very messy for the United States,” he added.

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