The PTO's decision was a welcome one for RIM, particularly after Wednesday's setbacks. The company has long argued that NTP's patents are invalid, and has noted that, in re-examining them, the PTO is considering evidence that the jury did not hear in the court case.

But it remains to be seen what impact the PTO process will have on the court case -- and on the future of the BlackBerry service.

As might be expected, the PTO move is only an interim one and doesn't mean that NTP's patents have been thrown out. Instead, NTP has a chance to respond to the PTO opinion before the office issues a final opinion. That give-and-take is often beneficial for patent holders; the PTO rarely throws out patents in their entirety, according to legal experts.

But should the PTO examiner decide to go that route, NTP can appeal that decision within the patent office and, eventually, back to the court system, which has already upheld the validity of NTP's patents.

RIM shares closed regular trading up $3.89, or 6.4%, to $65.02 on Thursday. In after-hours exchanges, the stock was off 27 cents, or less than 1%, to $64.75.

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