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Judge denies US government request for hearings in BlackBerry proceedings

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Judge denies US government request for hearings in BlackBerry proceedings

Alexandria (VA) – Late yesterday, US District Court Judge James Spencer turned down a request by the US Justice Dept. to hold hearings on the matter of whether court enforcement of an injunction against BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion, Ltd., would have a negative impact on communications between government employees and federal contractors. As a result, a hearing set for this Friday regarding whether the court should overturn the stay of its own ruling, in effect barring RIM from providing BlackBerry service to the US on grounds of patent infringement, will proceed as scheduled.

As the New York Times reported this morning, should the court overturn its stay, US government services would be exempt from the injunction, permitting RIM to continue to provide its present service exclusively to them. But the DOJ argued that a disruption or stoppage of BlackBerry service would, naturally, give employees of those services fewer contacts to communicate with over BlackBerry’s secure channels, particularly subcontractors and employees of other agencies and companies that do business continually with the government.

Nevertheless, observers believe Judge Spencer is interested in drawing this matter to a quick conclusion. While continuing the injunction order is one possible outcome, it is equally conceivable that the judge could continue the injunction but impose a new stay depending on whether RIM can demonstrate that it can implement its technology workaround, announced two weeks ago, that apparently redefines the roles that BlackBerry servers play, while asking customers only to implement a firmware upgrade. The workaround, BlackBerry claims, would circumvent procedures that NTP Inc. claims infringes upon patents it holds in the US – patents which the US Patent and Trademark Office in recent weeks has taken the unusual step of claiming are likely to be proclaimed invalid anyway.