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NTP says payment would end RIM dispute

Patent holding firm would accept 5.7 percent of revenue generated by U.S. sales of the BlackBerry to settle court battle.

If Research In Motion agreed to share a percentage of future BlackBerry revenue with NTP, the maker of the popular handheld could finally put an end to its long-running court fight, according to a published report.

Quoting unidentified sources, the Wall Street Journal reported in Friday's edition that patent holding firm NTP is willing to accept 5.7 percent of future revenue generated by U.S. sales of the BlackBerry as part of a settlement agreement. The figure should come as no surprise. In 2002, a federal court found that RIM had infringed on NTP's patents and awarded the company 5.7 percent of U.S. sales.

Sales of BlackBerrys reached $1.35 billion last year, and RIM has said the U.S. makes up about 75 percent of shipments.

While it's still unclear exactly how much the royalty payment would cost RIM, it would likely be less than the $1 billion that some analysts had predicted the company would pay in a settlement.

Kevin Anderson, an attorney for NTP, declined to comment.

In the past, NTP has said that RIM can ensure service for its customers by paying a fair price to NTP. Reuters reported Thursday that the companies had begun speaking to NTP through a court-appointed mediator. NTP founder Don Stout told Reuters on Wednesday that he had not spoken to RIM executives since last summer.

What the companies are discussing was not disclosed, but a source close to the negotiations said that RIM has said numerous times it has no plans to settle the case.

Representatives from RIM did not respond to an interview request.

Should RIM refuse to settle, NTP will seek an injunction, and that could force RIM to shut down its U.S. operations. RIM will likely fight an injunction by arguing that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recently rejected several of NTP's claims. The court case has alarmed many U.S. businesses, prompting some to look for replacement devices for their e-mail-capable BlackBerrys.