RIM Gets Sued--Again--As Mobile E-Mail Wars Rage On

Friday's activity signals that patent-related legal battles continue to plague the mobile E-mail market, which is why some companies, including RIM, are calling for U.S. patent reform.

RIM paid a $612.5 million settlement in March to patent-holding company NTP Inc. Visto is claiming that RIM infringed on four of its patents, three of which are identical to those in Visto's successful lawsuit against Seven.

The jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas awarded Visto damages for five claims from three patents. Visto originally sought over $12 million in damages for nearly 200 claims from six patents.

"We are clearly disappointed with the verdict; however we are grateful for the limited nature of the damages and look forward to the next phase of the litigation and the outcome of the [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's] re-examination proceedings," said Harvey Anderson, senior VP of corporate affairs and general counsel for Seven, in a statement.

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Seven today told customers that the verdict wouldn't impact its mobile E-mail service. Seven will make available a non-infringing workaround later this year to prevent the shutdown of the service.

In a separate and ongoing lawsuit, Seven countersued Visto in August in the same court for the infringement of two of its mobile E-mail patents, which Seven alleges predate the Visto patents. The trial is set for June 2007.

Earlier this year, Visto sued Microsoft and Good Technology for patent infringement of mobile E-mail technology and announced a patent cross-licensing deal with NTP.

It's unclear how the latest round of patent infringement lawsuits will affect mobile E-mail users and if any of these providers face a possible shutdown. However, providers are seeking to prevent future lawsuits related to patents. RIM in March called for a "more balanced" U.S. patent system following its settlement with NTP. Mike Lazaridis, president and co-chief executive of RIM, and CEO Jim Balsillie said such lawsuits threaten millions of customers that rely on mobile E-mail services.