Shares of Canadian tech standout Research In Motion soared yesterday after the maker of the ubiquitous BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices...
NEW YORK — Shares of Canadian tech standout Research In Motion soared yesterday after the maker of the ubiquitous BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices said it would pay $450 million to settle a patent-infringement suit.
The payout to NTP, a Virginia company, ends a drawn-out legal battle in which Canada’s government had interceded after U.S. courts favored the plaintiff. The settlement should make it easier for Research in Motion to license its technology for use in other mobile devices.
Under the agreement, NTP grants Research in Motion the right to continue its BlackBerry-related business without further interference from NTP or its patents.
Research in Motion’s U.S. shares jumped $11.87, or 17.7 percent, to close at $78.96 yesterday. Its shares have traded in a range of $41.55 to $103.56 over the past 52 weeks.
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The company may have settled, in part, because it did not want its competitor Good Technology to win more customers, said Todd Kort, a principal analyst at Gartner. He said Research in Motion can easily afford the settlement as it has $1.5 billion in the bank.
Good signed a licensing deal with NTP last week.
Unlike Research in Motion, which has restricted its technology to BlackBerry products, some of which also double as cellphones, Good has let its customers choose among wireless devices, such as PalmOne’s Treo line.
NTP is a patent holding company that has no products, confirmed James Wallace Jr., a lawyer for Arlington, Va.-based NTP.
“The company is a bunch of lawyers who have bought a bunch of patents and now they’re going around trying to collect royalties,” Kort said.
Research in Motion, or RIM, had lost a number of rounds in the suit and that made potential customers nervous, Kort said. “Lots of them were hesitant to license the technology because of threat of lawsuits,” he said.
RIM refused to comment in detail on the settlement, saying it would not disclose more until the company’s fourth-quarter conference call on April 5.
The dispute began in 2002 when NTP claimed that RIM infringed on 16 of its patents, including its radio communications technology.
In August 2003, a Virginia federal court agreed that 11 of those 16 patents were violated and awarded NTP $54 million in damages, as well as an 8.6 percent royalty on all the revenue from U.S. BlackBerry sales.
The court also ordered an injunction to prevent RIM from making or selling its devices in the United States.
The injunction was stayed, however, while RIM appealed. On Dec. 14, a three-judge U.S. appeals-court panel struck down the verdict and injunction, yet upheld most of the patent-infringement claims, sending the case back to the lower court for reconsideration.
The Canadian government subsequently weighed in on behalf of RIM, saying the December ruling threatened to have a “troubling effect of chilling innovation by Canadian companies.”
Ottawa supported RIM’s claim that U.S. patent laws have no jurisdiction in the case because the company’s BlackBerry relay server — through which all e-mails pass — is based at its facility in Waterloo, Ontario.
Most of the service’s 2 million subscribers, however, are in the United States.
RIM’s products now include devices that combine wireless e-mail with cellular-phone technology, and its handhelds work on wireless networks in 30 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and South America.