NTP Suggests "Grace Period" for BlackBerry Users

The U.S patent company seeking a shutdown of most national BlackBerry sales and services, NTP, has proposed a "30 day grace period" before any cut off would occur, Reuters reports.

NTP is suing Research In Motion (RIM), the company that produces the BlackBerry handhelds, for patent infringement. NTP’s attorneys have repeatedly requested an injunction from U.S. District Judge James Spencer, unless the two sides can come to an agreement.

"NTP’s proposed form of injunction provides a reasonable (30-day) grace period for RIM’s customers and partners to switch to alternative products before the injunction affects them," NTP said in its briefing to the court.

The proposed injunction would exempt local, state and federal government BlackBerry users, as well first responders, from the service shutdown.

RIM asked Judge Spencer to ignore NTP’s injunction request, and to grant a new trial, citing "exceptional public interest." The company noted that it would be "difficult, if not impossible" to cut off service to some users while still providing government officials with functioning BlackBerrys.

"The public interest here far outweighs NTP’s economic interests, which are fully compensable through damages," RIM stated in its court brief.

Judge Spencer ordered both sides to file responses to each other’s briefings by February 1, and he is expected to set a date to hear arguments in the near future.

NTP first filed suit against RIM in 2001, and they were granted an injunction in 2003 that would have ceased all BlackBerry services, but Judge Spencer stayed the action because of an appeal that had been filed. The courts have denied numerous requests by RIM to stay the case, including a recent request to U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts. In August, an appeals court downgraded the ruling against RIM but many patent infringement claims were upheld. Judge Spencer is still in the process of deciding how the appeals court ruling should effect the injunction and the resulting damages requested by NTP.

CIO Senior Writer Thomas Wailgum asked recently: Have you got a plan for life without your BlackBerry?

--Al Sacco

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