Updated from 1:41 p.m. EDTHere we go again: For the second time in three weeks, Research In Motion ( RIMM) was hit with an adverse court ruling. As with the earlier decision, the ruling involved a fairly routine procedural motion in a long-running patent dispute with NTP, an intellectual property holding company. In Friday's ruling, an appeals court denied RIM's request to delay sending the case back to a lower court while the U.S. Supreme Court decided whether to take the case. Although routine, the decision does mean that RIM could be one step closer to being barred from offering its BlackBerry email service in the U.S. The district court that will re-hear the case already ruled to that effect when it originally heard the case. Although the appeals court overturned that injunction, the district court could reinstate it this second time around. NTP is confident in its position with the case at both the Supreme Court and district court levels, said Kevin Anderson, an attorney with Wiley Rein & Fielding, which represents NTP. "We're eager to get the proceedings resolved at both courts," he said. In a statement, RIM said it will ask the Supreme Court to stay the case while the court is determining whether to accept RIM's appeal. "While further review by the Supreme Court is generally uncommon, RIM continues to believe this case raises significant national and international issues warranting further appellate review," the company said in the statement. Representatives for RIM did not return calls seeking further comment. Investors appeared to assume the worst as the stock plunged immediately before 11:14 a.m. EDT, when Nasdaq halted trading in the stock. At the time of the halt, the stock was off $3.54, or 5.5%, to $61.12. Following its return to trading, shares climbed higher and were recently down only $1.26, or 2%, to $63.40.
Unless the Supreme Court decides to intervene, the case will head back to the same district court that originally found RIM guilty of violating NTP's patents. Although the appeals court
threw out a number of claims that RIM was found to be infringing, it largely upheld the ruling. The district court will rule on the status of an aborted settlement between the two companies, and potentially determine a new judgment against RIM. Friday's ruling follows a decision by the appeals court earlier this month. In that ruling, the court denied RIM's motion to re-hear its appeal before an enlarged, en banc panel. Following that setback, RIM said it would appeal the case to the Supreme Court. The company has yet to file a brief with the high court, although it has 90 days after the appeals court's earlier ruling to do so. Outside of the courts, the U.S. Patent Office recently re-examined and rejected all of NTP's patents. RIM has made much of the rejections, but thus far they've meant little in the court system, which can choose whether or not to take into account Patent Office actions. And the rejections may end up having little meaning even for the Patent Office, which merely represent initial rulings in the reexamination process that can be appealed and are often overturned. Still, RIM hopes that the courts will take the Patent Office's actions into account. "RIM maintains that an injunction is inappropriate given the facts of the case and substantial doubts raised subsequent to trial as to the validity of the patents in question," the company said in its statement. But it acknowledged "it ultimately will be up to the courts to decide these matters and there can never be an assurance of a favorable outcome in any litigation."
announced in March that it had agreed to pay NTP $450 million to settle the case. However, the company acknowledged in June that final negotiations on the settlement had broken down and the case would return to the courts. The case has sent RIM's stock reeling. Since the appeals court's initial ruling last December, the company's stock has fallen 47%.