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RIM shares atwitter amid case concerns

Stock in the BlackBerry maker fluctuates as investors await a key ruling in a hotly contested patent infringement case.

Culture
Research In Motion shares have been fluctuating amid anticipation that a ruling over a hotly contested patent infringement case may be near--and that it could be bad news for the BlackBerry maker.

For the second time in three days, the Canadian company's stock fell about 10 percent. Shares closed down nearly 12 percent to $77.75 in Friday trading on the Nasdaq. The stock rallied Thursday after falling Wednesday.

Analysts attributed the stock shifts to speculation that a decision will be made soon on RIM's appeal to invalidate NTP's patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments from both companies' attorneys on June 7.

The two companies have been embroiled in a patent infringement case for a number of years. NTP claims that RIM violates its patents covering the use of radio frequency wireless communications in e-mail systems.

RIM appealed the validity of NTP's patents but not royalty terms nor an injunction that prevented the BlackBerry company from making, using or offering to sell handhelds, services or software in the United States. The injunction was stayed following appeal.

If the decision is not in RIM's favor, the company will have to renegotiate royalty terms with NTP, which may result in a higher rate than the current 8.55 percent of revenue.

A decision is expected soon because the court has worked through a five-month backlog of cases and is now considering the RIM-NTP case.

"We have yet to find a legal expert or independent third party outside of RIMM that is familiar with the NTP case and who thinks that RIMM will come out on top," Pablo Perez-Fernandez, an analyst with investment bank Standford Group, wrote in a research note last week. "Our own review of court proceedings and the patents involved in the case suggest that NTP has a very strong position."

RIM also has filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to have NTP's patents re-examined. If the patents are invalidated with the patent office it would undermine NTP's case, but a decision has not yet been made.

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