RIM Still Open to "Reasonable" NTP Settlement

Research In Motion Ltd. has not shut down communications with U.S. patent holding firm NTP Inc. and remains open to a "reasonable settlement opportunity," its chief financial officer said on Friday.

With one week before a February 24 court hearing on NTP's request for an injunction to halt U.S. service of RIM's BlackBerry e-mail device, he also repeated that Canadian firm's technical workaround will avert any blackout.

"We haven't shut down communications" with NTP, said CFO Dennis Kavelman at a CIBC World Markets conference.

"You know if there's a reasonable settlement opportunity that we'd be there. I think we showed last year that we were willing to settle that."

In early 2005, Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM agreed to pay $450 million to resolve its long-running legal dispute with NTP, but the deal unraveled just months later.

NTP sued RIM in the United States for patent infringement in 2002 and won an injunction in 2003 to shut down U.S. service. That injunction was stayed pending appeals.

In what has been described as the latest move in a high-stakes poker match, RIM announced details last week of a workaround plan that it says will let U.S. BlackBerry service continue even if it loses the patent fight.

"We have very strong contingency plans," Kavelman said. "The critical thing for us is really to keep our customers confident in knowing that the service isn't going to get shut down."

In a court filing last month, RIM said it stands to lose customers even after rolling out a workaround. "It is reasonably certain that some of RIM's existing customers will opt for other providers ... rather than go through the trouble of installing the new software," it said.

Subscribers won't see any changes from the contingency software, which could be activated if there is an injunction, RIM has said.

The company, which has more than 3 million subscribers in the United States, can appeal any rulings from the U.S. District Court, Kavelman noted.

"Whatever happens at the district court level can also be taken to other appeal levels," he said.

RIM shares were up $1.72 or 2.4 percent on Friday at $72.32 on Nasdaq and ahead C$1.84 or 2.3 percent at C$83.31 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

($1=$1.15 Canadian)

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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