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Federal Court Ruling Rattles Research In Motion

Shares of Research In Motion (RIMM) slipped Wednesday as the company got more bad news in a long-running patent dispute.

At a court hearing Wednesday in Virginia, U.S. District Judge James Spencer said it was "highly unlikely" that he would delay the case until the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office makes a final decision on the validity of patents held by NTP, according to a report from Reuters.

"I don't run (patent office) business and they don't run mine," Spencer said, according to Reuters.

RIM can still officially request such a delay, but Spencer's comments indicate how he will rule, said Jim Wallace, an attorney with Wiley, Rein & Fielding, which represents NTP.

The judge's leaning is a blow to RIM, the provider of the popular BlackBerry pagers and wireless email service. In an initial ruling, the patent office has declared invalid all of NTP's patents, a fact that RIM has unsuccessfully tried to introduce into the court case. Even if the patent office later reinstates the patents on appeal, that process could take years, giving RIM more time to negotiate a settlement -- or to go about its business.

RIM representatives did not return calls seeking comment. In a statement emailed to TheStreet.com, RIM made no mention of the judge's leanings on a potential delay. Instead, the company said it planned to file a request for the delay on Thursday, noting that the patent office has denied NTP's motion there to delay proceedings and indicated that it will make its latest decision on NTP's patents within two months.

RIM said it was "pleased" with the outcome of the hearing, saying that the judge decided to follow its suggestion that he consider whether a settlement was previously reached (and now disputed) between the two companies before moving on potential injunction hearings.

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