By STEPHANIE STOUGHTON AP Business Writer
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A federal judge moved a step closer Wednesday to reissuing an injunction that threatens BlackBerry e-mail service in this country, placing more pressure on the wireless device's maker, Research In Motion Ltd., to settle the patent case.
The judge rejected RIM's bid to enforce a preliminary $450 million settlement reached earlier this year with NTP Inc., a small firm that has convinced a jury that BlackBerry infringes on its patents for wireless communication.
In another blow to RIM, U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer turned down the Canadian company's request to delay the case pending final word from the U.S. patent office, which has preliminarily rejected the patents at the heart of the lawsuit.
With those issues out of the way, Spencer next plans to address damages and, once again, an injunction would force RIM to halt BlackBerry service in the United States. After a jury decided against RIM in 2002, Spencer held off on the injunction pending appeals.
Analysts and industry observers say RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, will likely be forced to settle the lawsuit for as much as $1 billion. Still, some also say RIM's hands aren't completely tied; it's also somewhat unlikely NTP would want to force a shutdown, a scenario that could leave it with a smaller payoff.