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Research in Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry family of wireless e-mail devices, faces a new legal threat after Visto, a US-based wireless e-mail technology company, filed a new patent infringement suit against the Canadian group.

The move follows Visto’s victory in another long-running patent infringment suit against rival Seven Networks, and comes just weeks after Rim paid more than $612m to settle a patent case with Washington-based NTP, a patent holding firm that also holds a small stake in Visto.

“Based on Visto’s sweeping victory in court against Seven Networks on Friday, Rim must understand that there is no place in the mobile e-mail space for this sort of behavior,” said Brian Bogosian, Visto’s chief executive. “Under the law, which protects consumers from products that contain infringing technology, Rim should not be able to sell the BlackBerry system.”

Rim did not immediately comment on the new suit which could lead to further uncertainly in the fast expanding market for corporate wireless “push” e-mail services – a market that Rim and the BlackBerry helped define. It is also likely to fuel further demands for a revision of US patent law and overhaul of the patent and trademark system.

Visto previosly filed a separate patent infringement suits against several other wireless e-mail technology companies - including Microsoft - but said on Monday that it has no plans to file a suit against Intellisynch, another wireless e-mail technology vendor now owned by Nokia.

On Friday a Texas jury found that Seven had willfully infringed on three separate Visto wireless e-mail patents and awarded Visto about $3.6m in damages. Visto had originally asserted nearly 200 claims from six patents, and sought more than $12m in damages while seeking to have the patents reevaluated and upheld by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Seven said it was, “clearly disappointed” with the verdict, but added that it was “grateful for the limited nature of the damages and looks forward to the next phase of the litigation and the outcome of the [US Patent and Trademark Office] re-examination proceedings.”

So far one of the patents in question has been upheld as valid, while another has been rejected.

“While this is the first step in a long process, our primary objective is to protect the interests of our customers and their ability to continue to use Seven’s innovative real-time mobile e-mail solution,” said Harvey Anderson, general counsel for Seven. “We believe minor alterations of the software will avoid the claims in the future, with no disruption to our customers or the user experience.”

Seven counter sued Visto in August claiming that Visto had infringed two of its mobile e-mail patents. That trial is set for June 2007.

Both companies have developed technology that enables mobile users to retrieve their e-mail from belind a coprorate security “firewall” – technology that is used by wirelss carriers including Cingular to enable their customers to receive wireless e-mails on a wide range of smartphone devices.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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