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RIM gets good news in patent case

BlackBerry maker scores one as U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejects claim by NTP.

Battered by two recent setbacks in court, Research In Motion won a round in its long-running patent fight against NTP on Thursday when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected one of the claims by RIM's adversary.

Patent-holding firm NTP contends that it owns the patents for the technology that powers RIM's BlackBerry handheld devices, but the Patent Office recently received information that a Norwegian firm may have filed patents prior to NTP, according to various media sources. The ruling by the Patent Office is not final and NTP will have an opportunity to file a response.

The ruling came a day after a federal judge rejected Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM's request to approve a $450 million settlement with NTP. The judge also balked when RIM requested that the case be halted until the Patent Office had re-examined the validity of NTP's patents.

At stake is RIM's right to operate in the United States. NTP has already won an injunction that would force RIM to pull the plug on its U.S.-based BlackBerry service. RIM has said that it could implement alternative methods to keep its service running, and experts expect that if RIM fails to triumph in court it would reach a settlement with NTP, albeit an expensive one.

RIM has asserted that the technology that enables BlackBerrys to forward e-mail automatically was not pilfered.

A final determination on the patents may not be reached for months.