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US urges keeping BlackBerry service on

RICHMOND --The US government has inserted itself in a high-stakes patent fight over the popular BlackBerry device, saying it wants to make sure federal workers won't be cut off from mobile access to their e-mail.

The Justice Department filed a ''statement of interest" this week to explain how the US government, with as many as 200,000 BlackBerry users, could be harmed if a federal judge in Virginia issues an injunction against Research In Motion Ltd. to stop selling the device and accompanying e-mail service.

If the judge issues an injunction, ''it is imperative that some mechanism be incorporated that permits continuity of the federal government's use of BlackBerry devices," the filing said.

The patent dispute with NTP Ltd. has heated with its return this week to US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia -- nicknamed the ''Rocket Docket" for its speedy resolution of civil cases.

Judge James Spencer, who issued an injunction against Research in Motion after the 2003 jury verdict, but stayed its pending appeals, could rule before Thanksgiving on whether a $450 million settlement reached previously is valid.

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