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Patent infringement case against RIM overturned

RIM’s offices in Waterloo, Ont.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

A U.S. judge has overturned a $147.2-million patent infringement ruling against Research In Motion Ltd., giving the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone maker a bit of extra cash as it goes through 5,000 layoffs and attempts to find cost savings during its arduous transition to a new platform.

A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California had originally found that RIM had infringed on a patent held by Mformation Technologies Ltd., a firm based in New Jersey that provides companies with mobile device management software. But RIM said on Thursday that the judge in the case had overturned the jury's verdict, meaning RIM no longer has to pay the huge sum.

"We appreciate the Judge's careful consideration of this case. RIM did not infringe on Mformation's patent and we are pleased with this victory," Steve Zipperstein, RIM's new chief legal officer, said in a statement. "The purpose of the patent system is to encourage innovation, but the system is still too often exploited in pursuit of other goals."

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The global technology industry is now choked with such patent lawsuits. Apple Inc. and Samsung Technologies, the two largest smartphone makers in the world, are currently locked in a U.S. court debating the similarities between the two companies' smartphones and tablets. Apple has, at times successfully, blocked Samsung's tablet computers from being sold in certain countries.

RIM has had to battle its fair share of lawsuits, as well. In 2006, in a court case that proved to be a disaster for the company, RIM was ordered to pay $612.5-million to patent holding company NTP.

In the current case, Mformation is still allowed to appeal the ruling, RIM said, but if successful it would simply result in a new trial – not the reinstatement of the $147.2-million penalty.

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