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RIM's Legal Troubles Have Yet To Worry VARs

Posted by iNext - 2005-10-28

Research In Motion suffered another setback today in a legal fight that could force it to stop North American sales of its popular Blackberry wireless e-mail service. But despite the ongoing turmoil, wireless solution providers seem mostly unconcerned that the legal squabbling will lead to a shutdown of the Blackberry service.

The U.S. Supreme Court's declined to stop all lower-court proceedings while it decides whether to consider an earlier patent infringement ruling against the Waterloo-Ontario based wireless device maker. It is the latest setback in RIM's four-year court battle with Arlington, Va.-based patent licensing company NTP.

However, Tim Tompt, owner of Executive Wireless, a Seattle-based wireless solution provider and Blackberry reseller, isn't worried that the court will ultimately rule against RIM.

"I don't get a sense of fear from my customers that the whole thing is going to just come crumbling down," said Tompt. He estimates that about 85 percent of his company's business comes from providing Blackberry solutions to enterprise customers.

Jay Tipton, vice president of Technology Specialists, a Fort Wayne, Indiana solution provider, said he anticipates continuing to provide Blackberry RIM integration services to his clients as needed.

That said, Tipton noted he has been disappointed by the lack of an aggressive Blackberry channel program. "[There] are a lot of alternative products including the Windows CE devices and the Treo devices which can be integrated with Microsoft Exchange," he said. "This is not a huge issue for us. We sell the HP handheld device which is a great solution. It does what it needs to."

For cell phone based devices, Tipton said he partners with other telecom solution providers that sell the devices and then does the Exchange server integration work for them.

Patty Wilkey, Director of Global Desktop and Mobility at EDS, Plano, Texas, said that her company's large clientele of Blackberry users are beginning to make contingency plans in order to deal with a potential injunction against RIM. "It's similar to a disaster recovery planning scenario, in that our customers are asking 'what is the backup plan?'" said Wilkey.

However, Wilkey said that if Blackberry sales are halted, EDS' Microsoft Exchange 2003 solution provides a viable wireless e-mail alternative for the company's enterprise customer based use other mobile devices, particularly with the mobility and security enhancements in Microsoft's recently released Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2.

NTT has charged that RIM infringed on several patents, including NTP's radio-communications technology. A federal court in Virginia had ruled against RIM in 2003, but that decision was reversed on appeal and sent back to the Virginia court for reconsideration.

RIM has countered that U.S. patent laws do not apply to it because it operates in Canada. That an argument that, so far, the courts have rejected.

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