Blame Canada
By Carlo Longino, Wed Jan 26 23:15:00 GMT 2005

Research In Motion says its current patent dispute should be thrown out from a American court because it's a Canadian company, and it's got the backing of that country's government.

RIM's legal battle with NTP is beginning to feel like the never-ending story. NTP won the last round, with things looking like they might be coming to a close at some point. But never fear, RIM has fired back, saying it's prepared to take the case all the way to the US Supreme Court, it's latest strategy to stand just across the US border with Canada and thumb its nose at NTP, saying "nyah nyah, we're Canadian and you can't touch us."

The company contends that since it's based outside the US, and the relay server through which all BlackBerry e-mails pass is as well, American patents -- which can't be enforced outside the country -- shouldn't apply. Never mind there are more than 500,000 BlackBerrys in use in the US, representing nearly a quarter of the company's total subscribers. More specifically, RIM's lawyer argues that the patents cover an entire mobile e-mail system, so if any part of that system is outside the US, it's untouchable.

Given the timing and the company's latest setback, the strategy smacks of desperation. But that didn't stop the Canadian government filing a brief with the court supporting RIM's stance, saying it was acting to protect the interests of Canadian businesses and indeed, its own sovereignty. Indeed, the situation has concerned a number of Canadian companies and perked up the ears of Canadian lawyers.

NTP, of course, is telling Ottawa to shove off. The case isn't likely to affect RIM's finances, whatever the outcome, since the company has set aside reserves to cover and liabilities, but many analysts and observers have wondered why RIM is still dragging out the fight. Some of those same analysts, though, continue to tout RIM as a takeover target, though it's doubtful any suitors would want to come in with the patent dispute still raging.