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Bye-bye, BlackBerry? (Federal court hearing scheduled for Friday that could lead to the shutdown)
http://news.com.com/Bye-bye%2C+BlackBerry/2100-1047_3-6042308.html ^ | Thu Feb 23 | Anne Broache

Posted on 02/23/2006 10:10:45 AM PST by nickcarraway

A federal court hearing scheduled for Friday that could lead to the shutdown of BlackBerry devices throughout the United States is forcing longtime BlackBerry users to think about life without their mobile gadgets.

On Capitol Hill, where "CrackBerry" addiction is rampant, some thumb-typists are even expressing their anxiety in poetry. "'Freedom!' will the joyful say, Released from slavery today! Yet others'll suffer horrid angst if their little screens go blank," Larry Neal, deputy staff director for communications at the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote in an 18-line poem.

Tongue-in-cheek poetry aside, to millions of BlackBerry users, there's nothing funny about Friday's court hearing, which could draw to an end one aspect of the long-running patent spat between Ontario-based Research In Motion and Virginia-based patent-holding firm NTP.

At the hearing in U.S. District Judge James Spencer's Richmond, Va., courtroom, lawyers for NTP, RIM and the federal government will argue over whether to issue an injunction on the sale and support of the wireless devices on American turf, as well as the amount of damages due to NTP from RIM.

Spencer's ruling could come as early as Friday afternoon, but it's more likely to be handed down early next week. NTP has already said it will wait 30 days before shutting down the service, though it's not clear if that grace period starts on Friday or the day the decision is made public.

RIM declined to comment for this article.

NTP in 2002 won a jury verdict that found that BlackBerry devices and software infringed on patents held by the late Thomas Campana, co-founder of the holding company. An injunction later arrived with that victory, but it was stayed and the damages were put in escrow pending the appeals process, which ended at the Supreme Court's door earlier this year. Given that the fundamental question of infringement has withstood the appeals process, NTP will ask for another injunction during Friday's hearing.

"I'm shocked that RIM hasn't settled," said Gary Abelev, a patent attorney with the New York law firm Dorsey & Whitney. The company had the opportunity to settle the case for $450 million last year, but that deal fell through. An injunction would prevent the sale of RIM's primary source of revenue in its largest market, effectively crippling the company.

RIM's answer to a possible injunction is a so-called workaround. The company earlier this month revealed sketchy details of the software-based workaround it says will be made available for download if an injunction occurs.

NTP is likely to argue that the workaround violates the same claims in the patents, and numerous hearings will probably follow, Abelev said. If the workaround is declared invalid, RIM is back to square one with nothing to show for millions in legal fees, he said.

RIM's other hope is that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office strikes down all of NTP's patents. The BlackBerry received a boost Wednesday when the USPTO issued a final rejection of one of the five patents in question, but NTP can appeal that decision through several more avenues, extending the case even further.

Watching and waiting On Capitol Hill, all 100 senators, 435 House members and myriad staffers tote BlackBerrys. "It might be a nice change," said one Senate aide, who asked to remain anonymous. "Instead of looking at my BlackBerry the first thing in the morning, I might actually be able to take a shower without work on my mind."

Lawyers at the Los Angeles law firm Allen & Matkins are less amused at the prospect of losing their BlackBerrys. The firm's chief technology officer, Frank Gillman, is counting on RIM's workaround to keep his legal team in contact with clients, he said in an e-mail interview.

"We believe that switching to another vendor at this point would be just as complex, if not more so because of additional training and device configuration testing, than to implement BlackBerry's announced workaround," Gillman wrote in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "We also believe that, overall, BlackBerry is still the best-of-breed solution in this space so we feel it would be a backward step to move from that platform."

A number of government users said they're counting on assurances that the public sector will get a reprieve allowing it to stay online, even if their corporate counterparts lose access. NTP specified that government users should be exempt from its injunction in briefs leading up to Friday's hearing, in order to assuage concerns that BlackBerry service would be interrupted in the event of a national emergency.

"My understanding, for governmental entities, is that they are going to be held harmless, so it's really not an issue for the members of Congress and their staffs and the federal government and local governments," said John Brandt, communications director for the House Administration Committee, which in 2001 headed up the initial post-Sept. 11 purchase of BlackBerrys for all House members and select key staffers.

The trouble is, such an exemption may not be grounded in reality. RIM reportedly has denied the feasibility of keeping government BlackBerrys functional while shutting out other users. The Justice Department also argued in a brief filed recently with the district court that it, too, was not convinced such a remedy would work. Judge Spencer on Tuesday denied the department's bid to hold a separate hearing on the issue, although it will get to have its say in court on Friday.

IT gurus are also carefully eyeing RIM's proposed solution to the injunction.

"They tell us it would be a simple upgrade to our server environment, but we hear that all the time, so we kind of are cautious about anyone who tells us about a 'simple upgrade,'" Thomas Jarrett, Delaware's chief information officer, said in a telephone interview. About 300 of the state's "high-end" officials, ranging from the governor's top aides--though not the executive herself--to state legislators to emergency responders, rely heavily on the devices, and the state operates its own BlackBerry server, he said.

The impact on government users will be determined in the hearing Friday.

One thing that's clear about Spencer's mindset is his desire to put this case to bed. "This court cannot and will not grant RIM the extraordinary remedy of delaying these proceedings any further than they already have been based on conjecture," he wrote last November in denying RIM an extension of the case pending the patent reexamination process.

Still, Jarrett acknowledged, "I'm not so sure we'll panic." Up until two years ago, Delaware state officials lived without BlackBerrys, he noted. "I'll be the first to admit I struggled a bit without it, but if forced to, I'd probably learn to live without it again."


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Canada; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: California
KEYWORDS: blackberry

1 posted on 02/23/2006 10:10:46 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Dingle


2 posted on 02/23/2006 10:13:56 AM PST by Vaquero (time again for the Crusades.)
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To: nickcarraway

I guess if you shut down the Blackberries of Congresscritters, they will pass a law to fix the problem.

They have the full authority to do so.


3 posted on 02/23/2006 10:24:34 AM PST by proxy_user
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To: Vaquero
Dingle Berry?

We call the people who are attached to the Blackberrys "Brown Berries" because they are ultimately attached to those whom they wish to impress.

4 posted on 02/23/2006 10:26:39 AM PST by GingisK
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To: nickcarraway

I just talked to Nextel yesterday about buying a Blackberry and was assured that there is a "patch" already prepared. From the sound of this, the "patch" may not cut it.

I'm not so sure I wanna buy a Blackberry now. Anyone know of anything better?

Semper Fidelis


5 posted on 02/23/2006 10:28:01 AM PST by marine86297 (I'll never forgive Clinton for Somalia, my blood is on his hands)
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To: nickcarraway

This is fast becoming the most ludicrous legal proceeding in U.S. business history. NTP does not have final approval on ANY of these patents, and appears unlikely to get any, based on indications from the Patent Office. So meanwhile, they're being allowed to damage the business of the only user of the technology in question, and force that user to develop (at great expense) an alternative. If RIM actually has to switch to the workaround technology, they will make sure and keep tweaking it until it's at least as good as the technology they currently use, and make sure that it doesn't come clse to infringing any patent that NTP can reasonably lay any claim to. So by the time the glacial Patent Office finishes its work on these patents, even in the unlikely event that they do award NTP one or more of the patents, said patents will have been rendered virtually worthless by the development of RIM's alternative technology. It wouldn't be a bad idea for President Bush to issue some sort of executive order, postponing any shutdown of RIM's current system until the Patent Office renders its final decision, and simultaneously ordering the Patent Office get its act together and render a final decision quickly.


6 posted on 02/23/2006 10:29:12 AM PST by GovernmentShrinker
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To: proxy_user

They have full authority to take intellectual property from a U.S. company and give it to a Canadian company? It's nice to know the Constitution gives them that power.


7 posted on 02/23/2006 10:29:21 AM PST by nickcarraway (I'm Only Alive, Because a Judge Hasn't Ruled I Should Die...)
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To: marine86297

I'm pretty darn fond of my Blackberry, and suspect that this whole thing will blow over without the need for any "patch". In the unlikely event that NTP actually does get awarded ANY of the patents in question, then what are they going to do with them? They're worth a lot more to RIM than to anybody else, and they aren't worth a penny to NTP unless it sells the patents or licenses the technology. Seller, meet highest bidder.


8 posted on 02/23/2006 10:32:35 AM PST by GovernmentShrinker
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To: marine86297
Verizons Treo with Windows Mobile 5 looks pretty sweet.


9 posted on 02/23/2006 10:35:14 AM PST by smith288 (The older I get, the dumber I become as im wise enough to acknowledge how much more there is to know)
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To: nickcarraway
""I'm shocked that RIM hasn't settled," said Gary Abelev, a patent attorney with the New York law firm Dorsey & Whitney. The company had the opportunity to settle the case for $450 million last year, but that deal fell through. An injunction would prevent the sale of RIM's primary source of revenue in its largest market, effectively crippling the company."

Somehow this comment leads me to believe that RIM expects the US Government, itself a heavy user of Blackberry, to come to their defense at the 11th hour. Makes me wonder what, if any, "instructions" may have gone to the USPTO on their behalf.

10 posted on 02/23/2006 10:44:34 AM PST by NearlyNormal (Our military wins wars, the liberals and their LDM loose them)
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To: nickcarraway
Heck, I don't even own a cell phone. Don't want to be that accessible. However it's amusing watching every woman walking down the street yaking it up. Yak yak yak.....
11 posted on 02/23/2006 10:44:44 AM PST by yobid (What we have here is a failure to communicate)
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To: nickcarraway

I don't see property rights mentioned in the Constitution. That's really up to the states.

But in the case of patents and copyright, Congress is given explicit authority. They could pass a law making all patents expire in five minutes if they chose to do so.


12 posted on 02/23/2006 10:45:08 AM PST by proxy_user
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To: nickcarraway
I have not read the patents in depth, but after skimming over them I don't see how they can stand. They are so damn generic that they could shut down all email that uses any type of store and forward technology.

I suspect the patent office will throw out the patents eventually and if the judge had any sense he would wait to rule until the patent office has completed their review.
13 posted on 02/23/2006 10:52:18 AM PST by mikesmad
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To: NearlyNormal; proxy_user
From UPI today:

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- U.S. patent authorities canceled one NTP Inc. patent that is part of the firm`s litigation against Research In Motion Ltd., maker of BlackBerrys.

The rejection of one of the five contested patents comes two days before a U.S. federal judge in Virginia was expected to rule on NTP`s request to close down BlackBerry operations, the Globe and Mail said.

The Patent and Trademark Office has rejected, in a preliminary review, the remaining four patents, and RIM said Wednesday it expects the office to formally reject those four patents shortly.

Investors and millions of BlackBerry users waited, meanwhile, to see if the patent office`s final decision would come before a possible court-ordered closure Friday of BlackBerry`s U.S. operations.


14 posted on 02/23/2006 10:52:32 AM PST by KC Burke (Men of intemperate minds can never be free....)
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To: nickcarraway

see my post 14


15 posted on 02/23/2006 10:52:56 AM PST by KC Burke (Men of intemperate minds can never be free....)
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To: mikesmad

see 14


16 posted on 02/23/2006 10:53:25 AM PST by KC Burke (Men of intemperate minds can never be free....)
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To: nickcarraway

Look up annoying in the Dictionary: "Trying to have a conversation with someone addicted to Blackberry as they pull it out and check the screen once every 10 seconds."


17 posted on 02/23/2006 10:56:47 AM PST by 1Old Pro
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To: KC Burke

Thanks. The patents boiled down to one sentence read: "we will take incoming electronic data then forward it to another device". If that stood, then kiss email goodbye, kiss EDI goodbye, kiss the internet goodbye.


18 posted on 02/23/2006 10:58:22 AM PST by mikesmad
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To: nickcarraway
They have full authority to take intellectual property from a U.S. company and give it to a Canadian company? It's nice to know the Constitution gives them that power.

They can't just take it, but the can force them to lisence it for reasonable terms.

19 posted on 02/23/2006 11:03:06 AM PST by untrained skeptic
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To: nickcarraway


Black Barry
20 posted on 02/23/2006 11:10:08 AM PST by ElTianti
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To: nickcarraway

If you like investment opps for patent infringers here is a co.

PTSC


21 posted on 02/23/2006 11:17:19 AM PST by US_MilitaryRules (Time to eradicated islambs and mooselimbs!)
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To: yobid
Heck, I don't even own a cell phone. Don't want to be that accessible.

Ah, a kindred spirit. I can't figure out why people voluntarily shackle themselves.

22 posted on 02/23/2006 11:48:45 AM PST by GingisK
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To: GingisK

I know, i don't even like answering the phone at home!! Guess I'm a freak!


23 posted on 02/23/2006 11:59:20 AM PST by yobid (What we have here is a failure to communicate)
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To: Vaquero

Poor Blackberries, I just wish they'd change the name. I find it especially annoying for some reason. Naming electronic devices after fruit just seems so wrong. It just strikes me as just one more annoying piece of yuppie culture. I still think NTPs claims are crap but so are most patents. Patents should be reserved for truly unique non intuitive ideas, products, and processes.


24 posted on 02/23/2006 12:00:22 PM PST by Ma3lst0rm (Perspective is everything.)
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To: GingisK
Heck, I don't even own a cell phone. Don't want to be that accessible. Ah, a kindred spirit. I can't figure out why people voluntarily shackle themselves. I own a cell phone as my only phone. The ringer remains off from the time I leave my home until I return. Nothing - NOTHING - infuriates me more than rude cell phone talkers. The worst are those on the train who are seemingly continuing their workday as they commute home oblivious to everyone else on the train who is disturbed. This is usually someone talking a co-worker through some task or other while they skip out and make their way home. Then this nitwits second call is something like: "Honey......I'm on the.......wait I'M GOING THROUGH A TUNNEL I MIGHT LOSE YOU.......HELLO???
25 posted on 02/23/2006 12:05:35 PM PST by mikemc282002 (Blood, toil, sweat, and tears.....Not Schumer, Clinton, Kerry and Kennedy.)
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To: GingisK
Ah, a kindred spirit. I can't figure out why people voluntarily shackle themselves.

Cell phones are a necessity if you spend a lot of time outside of the house. Co-ordinating with friends for meeting up after work, for example.

Blackberries are a double-edged sword. They let me leave the office without fear that I will miss an important e-mail. I have a lot of freedom, and my boss and clients don't know I'm at home, rather than at my desk. On the other hand, they do function as an electronic leash.

26 posted on 02/23/2006 12:09:34 PM PST by Potowmack ("Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government")
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To: marine86297
I'm not so sure I wanna buy a Blackberry now. Anyone know of anything better?

If you want wireless email, there is nothing better.

27 posted on 02/23/2006 12:09:38 PM PST by TC Rider (The United States Constitution 1791. All Rights Reserved.)
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To: nickcarraway

This is a case of waiting to see who blinks first.

So long as the gov is not exempt from a shutdown, it will never happen. And I don't see how they can shut down the rest of us and leave the Gov up.

Cingular, our carrier, uses GPRS for other purposes besides Blackberry, so their GPRS carrier is not going down. My Blackberry server sitting near me is not going down. I'm not sure how they can even turn off all the Blackberrys in the country.


28 posted on 02/23/2006 12:12:06 PM PST by TC Rider (The United States Constitution 1791. All Rights Reserved.)
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To: nickcarraway

At my last job, I took off two days before my wedding. My boss suggested, not even half-joking, that we get me a BlackBerry for those two days.

As if I would just up and drop all the wedding prep for a legal marketing "emergency."

I mean, really.


29 posted on 02/23/2006 12:13:40 PM PST by Xenalyte (Can you count, suckas? I say the future is ours . . . if you can count.)
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To: Potowmack
Cell phones are a necessity if you spend a lot of time outside of the house.

I don't experience any loss of quality in life by not having one; and, I do leave the house often and for long periods of time. Heck, I can remember when cell phones didn't exist. I lived devoid of panic, even then.

Organization and preparation are excellent substitues for the electronic leash.

30 posted on 02/23/2006 12:33:21 PM PST by GingisK
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To: TC Rider
Anyone know of anything better?

Choose empty hands. Emails remain in the queue until you get back to your computer. People can leave telephone messages. If you hire decent people, organize your office, set up decent procedures, and do modest planning, the office can survive without one's constant attention.

The preceived need electronic leashes reveals serious weakness.

31 posted on 02/23/2006 12:37:37 PM PST by GingisK
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To: GingisK
Organization and preparation are excellent substitues for the electronic leash.

I guess it may be a generational and/or cultural thing. When you're talking about a group of young adults trying to co-ordinate their schedules and meeting up after work, for example, cell phones and text messaging are key.

32 posted on 02/23/2006 12:39:51 PM PST by Potowmack ("Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government")
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To: marine86297

Treo 700


33 posted on 02/23/2006 12:43:23 PM PST by IGOTMINE (Front Sight. Press. Follow Through. It's a way of life.)
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To: yobid

That's what I used to think, until I began taking care of my mom (93) and I have to have a way for her to contact me at any time. To me .. it's for emergencies and stuff like that. I refuse to answer it when I'm in the car - too distracting - but I have used it in the car to report an accident which occurred right in front of me (I avoided it).


34 posted on 02/23/2006 12:44:04 PM PST by CyberAnt (Democrats/Old Media: "controversy, crap and confusion" -- Amen!)
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To: Potowmack
Co-ordinating with friends for meeting up after work, for example

I forgot to address this one. You might find this hard to believe, but this sort of thing was accomplished regularly long before those obnoxious devices were invented. All you need is a telephone and a watch. Maybe a map.

I meet with an old friend one day each week without contacting him in the meantime. We meet at different times and places each week. All you have to do is agree on the details before you separate each week. What a concept!

35 posted on 02/23/2006 12:44:41 PM PST by GingisK
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To: IGOTMINE

Old reliable :)

36 posted on 02/23/2006 12:46:35 PM PST by mewzilla (Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist. John Adams)
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To: Potowmack
I guess it may be a generational and/or cultural thing.

Yeah, I've noticed that youngsters seem confused or lost most of the time. Technology has eroded preplanning and self reliance.

37 posted on 02/23/2006 12:47:52 PM PST by GingisK
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To: GingisK
I forgot to address this one. You might find this hard to believe, but this sort of thing was accomplished regularly long before those obnoxious devices were invented. All you need is a telephone and a watch. Maybe a map.

I'm sure it was. I grew up without a cell phone- I got my first one back in college around 1996. Is it possible? Sure. But it's certainly more difficult.

I meet with an old friend one day each week without contacting him in the meantime. We meet at different times and places each week. All you have to do is agree on the details before you separate each week. What a concept!

Not really possible. Schedules change, plans change. Work comes up, family comes up, the cab get stuck in traffic, the Metro gets delayed because of a suicide attempt etc. etc. A common situation- we go to a bar and decide we don't really like it- too crowded, too noisy, wromg type of crowd etc. So, rather than waiting around for everyone in the group, we text send out a text message to meet somewhere else.

38 posted on 02/23/2006 12:53:50 PM PST by Potowmack ("Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government")
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To: GingisK
Yeah, I've noticed that youngsters seem confused or lost most of the time. Technology has eroded preplanning and self reliance.

I'm talking about a group of friends who are aides to Senators, young partners at law firms, junior energy executives and such. They have a million things on their plate at any time, to a much greater extent than people their age did a generation ago.

For lifesyles like that, cell phones and blackberries are crucial. Life moves a lot faster than it did 20 years ago.

39 posted on 02/23/2006 12:56:34 PM PST by Potowmack ("Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government")
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To: Potowmack
Life moves a lot faster than it did 20 years ago.

Not really. Its the people who are moving faster and dynamically changing plans that weren't firm. Real life moves at the same old speed.

There are very different types of people. You obviously like to socialize and flit from one social setting to another with a large group of friends. I prefer to go home, visit with the family, build furniture and steam engines, and pursue other creative hobbies. I also camp, hike, and shoot. I keep few friends, but only those of quality.

You might see more people in a short time than I want to in a lifetime. Have you recently sat and listened to birds, watched sunlight glisten in the dew, or turned a rocket of your own making skyward?

You have conversed nicely with me; and, I appreciate that. I really hope you spend some time away from the electronics and the trivial pursuit. You seem very pleasant. Thanks for the exchange.

40 posted on 02/23/2006 1:15:40 PM PST by GingisK
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