NTP Inc. and Research In Motion recently settled their protracted dispute over continuing use of the BlackBerry, the popular wireless messaging device. RIM paid NTP $612 million in cash to settle on terms that RIM favored and to avoid an injunction that would have stopped millions of U.S. customers’ BlackBerry usage. This disposition by private settlement leaves unresolved many legal and public policy issues raised by the half-decade-long, sharply contested litigation.

NTP sued RIM five years ago, claiming that the mechanism produced by the Canadian corporation infringes upon NTP’s patent rights. In a 2002 trial, jurors found that RIM had infringed on NTP’s patent rights. Chief U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer of the Eastern District of Virginia then required RIM to pay NTP $54 million in cash and a royalty of 8.5 percent on all U.S. BlackBerry sales. More relevant for BlackBerry owners was that the judge ordered an injunction that would halt U.S. service and sale. However, in 2002, Spencer suspended that injunction, pending appeals.

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