RIM unveils software update for BlackBerry

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Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry handset, said on Thursday it had developed and tested a software work-around that would allow its service to keep operating even if it lost a patent infringement lawsuit.

RIM said it had taken a “substantial R&D effort” to develop the modification and BlackBerries might need to be updated with the software if NTP, an intellectual property company, won an injunction in the US against the service.

A judge in Richmond, Virginia is due to hear the request for an injunction on February 24. It involves the alleged infringement of three NTP patents by RIM. A decision in favour of NTP would force RIM to close a service used by more than 3m BlackBerry owners in the US.

RIM said in November it was planning a work-around that did not infringe any NTP patents. The need for a solution had become pressing as hopes of an agreement with NTP faded and customers became concerned and began looking at alternative phones with e-mail software from Palm, Microsoft and others.

RIM said its new “multi-mode edition” software would have a standard mode identical to the way the BlackBerry service currently operates as well as a US mode that RIM could activate remotely in the event of an injunction. All new BlackBerries would come with the software pre-loaded once a network certification process was complete, it said.

RIM said it would argue that the injunction should not apply to those who had handsets before the date of the injunction. Should that argument fail, the company would also have a website where the software update could be downloaded and implemented by individuals and corporate IT departments.

RIM shares rose more than 4 per cent to $71.50.

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