RIM faces ban on BlackBerry sales

BlackBerry maker RIM has not only lost its patent case against Nokia – it’s been found guilty of failing to stick to a cross-licensing agreement between the two companies and may face a block on sales as a result.

A Swedish arbitration tribunal has ruled that RIM infringes Nokia’s wireless local access network (WLAN) patents.

“RIM was in breach of contract and is not entitled to manufacture or sell WLAN products without first agreeing royalties with Nokia,” it concluded.

The ruling potentially affects all RIM phones, as they all support WLAN. And Nokia has now filed cases in the UK, US and Canada to get a ban enforced.

Back in 2003, the two companies signed a cross-licensing agreement covering certain standards-essential cellular patents. But in 2011, RIM claimed that the agreement covered patents that weren’t actually standards essential, and applied to the tribunal for arbitration.

It doesn’t seem to have expected the result it got.

“In my view, there can be no question that RIM is entitled to a license on FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms to Nokia’s WiFi SEPs. But at this point there is no indication of Nokia having made any demand in excess of FRAND, and any FRAND issues may have been discussed in the arbitration proceeding,” comments patent expert Florian Mueller.

“RIM faces some fundamental problems, and now it’s coming under very serious pressure after the arbitration proceeding it initiated worked out in its rival’s favor.”

The odds are that the two companies will reach a new licensing agreement before any ban comes into play.