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BlackBerry e-mail may be halted

High court refuses to block proceedings in patent suit appeal

Research In Motion Ltd. lost a Supreme Court bid to block proceedings that might result in a nationwide shutdown of its BlackBerry e-mail service.

RIM is appealing an infringement verdict to the high court and wanted the lawsuit stalled while the appeal was pending. Chief Justice John Roberts denied the company's request for a stay, without comment.

Lawyers for RIM had argued its business would be harmed irreparably if the court did not delay the return of the case to the lower court where the company was found guilty in 2003 of violating patents held by NTP Inc.

The decision comes just days after the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit also refused to issue a stay in the case during RIM's appeal.

In August, the Appeals Court upheld most of the 2003 verdict, but directed the trial judge in the case to examine whether certain errors tainted the jury's deliberations. The verdict has raised the prospect that RIM could be forced to stop selling its popular handhelds and wireless e-mail service.

''Judge Roberts moved NTP and Research in Motion closer to a settlement and that's what investors were hoping for all along," said Susan Kalla, an analyst with Caris & Co. in New York.

NTP said it has made repeated settlement offers to address RIM's needs and that RIM failed to respond to many of the offers.

The proceedings are separate from deliberations by the US Patent and Trademark Office, which recently issued preliminary rejections of the five NTP patents that RIM was found to have violated in the lawsuit.

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