Government Steps In on RIM-NTP Case

One of the largest clients of RIM's BlackBerry service has stepped in and asked that a court ensure the network keeps running for its employees: the U.S. Government. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that lawyers had filed a "statement of interest" on the government's behalf in a U.S. District Court in Virginia.

NTP, the firm that owns the disputed patents in the RIM case, states that any halt to BlackBerry service would only apply to non-government users. However, lawyers for the U.S. Government want more than just a promise to ensure e-mails continue to flow.

"It is imperative that some mechanism be incorporated that permits continuity of the federal government's use of BlackBerry devices," the filing states.

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Government officials say that neither NTP or RIM have shown how the system would be able to detect a government user as opposed to others, and noted there appears to be "significant issues with the manner in which any injunction is phrased and implemented."

The heightened sense of urgency among government lawyers was likely sparked by comments from U.S. District Judge James Spencer on Wednesday. "I've spent enough of my life and time on NTP and RIM," he said, indicating a judgment would come quickly in whether an injunction against BlackBerry was to be enforced.

The government has proposed a "white list" be created in order to tell the system which devices and customers are permitted to use the network. However, such a list could take awhile to create, and lawyers are asking for a stay in any judgment that would shut down the system for at least another three months.

In addition, the government said it wanted more time to decide whether a shut down of the BlackBerry network is not in the public interest, citing the thousands of commercial users who also use the network.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has already sided with RIM, preliminarily rejecting all of NTP's patents relating to the BlackBerry. A final ruling is expected in the coming months, but could take longer. NTP has also promised to appeal any decision not in its best interest.

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