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Not again! BlackBerry maker under fire from Visto for alleged patent infringement

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Not again! BlackBerry maker under fire from Visto for alleged patent infringement

Waterloo (Ontario) – The outcome some analysts dreaded – that Research in Motion, Ltd.’s settlement with NTP might compel other companies waiting in the wings to make similar lawsuits – is apparently coming to fruition. Today, Visto, a patent holder for intellectual property related to service platforms for cellular and wireless carriers, announced its filing of a suit in US Federal Court seeking infringement penalties and damages against RIM.

The new suit involves a set of four patents that are different from the ones that NTP contested. Neither statements released today from Visto nor the actual complaint itself specify how RIM allegedly infringed on the four patents involved. They relate to the synchronization and security of so-called “workplace elements” in a distributed data network – in effect, elements that the user sees and controls, rather than the fundamental elements of the database. Among the security features under contention is a system for implementing firewalls. The subject matter of the patents is critical, especially because the workaround that RIM had planned to implement, in case it was likely to lose against NTP, involved not security but how packets were cached among e-mail servers during handoffs.

Three of the patents under contention were issued in 2000, and one in 2004. The timing is, of course, also critical since BlackBerry services were first established based on patents dating back to 1997.

But precedent has been on Visto’s side thus far. Just today, the company announced its victory in a patent infringement suit against Seven Networks, in a jury decision, with regard to the same suite of four patents upon which RIM is now accused of infringing. Visto has pending patent infringement suits against Good Technology (a RIM competitor) and Microsoft, among others. And last November, Visto announced it had received $70 million in venture capital funding by DFJ ePlanet Ventures, and other firms.

Buoyed by the jury decision and now claiming to have literally given birth to the wireless e-mail industry, Visto president and CEO Brian Bogosian said in this morning’s statement, “Friday’s sweeping decision against Seven Networks validates our claims that Visto’s intellectual property serves as the basis for this industry’s birth.”

For its own part, it appears that RIM – which may very well have spawned a permanent patent infringement defense division of the company – had a plan worked out just in case this happened. “RIM has been monitoring Visto’s litigation against other companies in the industry,” the company said in a statement this afternoon, “and, based on prior art and actual products in market, RIM believes Visto’s patents are invalid. Further, Visto’s patent claims as directed against Seven Networks refer to a different type of system than RIM’s technology.” RIM’s defense could include, the company warned, its own patent infringement counterclaims against Visto, thus adopting a tack very similar to its long drawn-out, but eventually successful, case brought forth by NTP.