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Research in Motion secures e-mail patent

Industry Standard
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By Alexei Oreskovic

(IDG) -- Research in Motion, the company that makes the popular Blackberry handheld computer, will soon be seeding other companies' products with its technology.

The development comes after Thursday morning news that the Ontario-based company had secured a patent for its e-mail redirecting technology used in its popular two-way paging products, and that it was suing rival Glenayre Electronics of Charlotte, N.C.

Licensing the technology, a break in RIM's long-standing proprietary philosophy, could open new revenue streams for the company and establish it as a standard for the growing wireless messaging market. Although RIM Chairman and co-CEO Jim Balsillie declined to say which companies might be potential licensees, analysts quickly suggested software giant Microsoft and handheld leader Palm were likely candidates.

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Until now, RIM has been reluctant to share its technology. It has not allowed the third-party manufacturing of Blackberries out of concern quality might be adversely affected, said IDC analyst Kevin Burden. He suggested that Palm, which is expected to release a next-generation model with continuous connectivity by year's end, might be a possible licensee.

Palm was unavailable to comment on whether it would consider licensing from RIM.

RIM's patent covers the method and technology for redirecting information between a host computer and a wireless device, while allowing the user to maintain a common e-mail address. It is this single mailbox integration that makes the patent significant.

While other two-way paging products, such as Motorola's Accompli, allow people to forward their corporate e-mail to the mobile device, there is no synchronization between the dual inboxes - if a person deletes or edits an e-mail on the pager, those changes won't appear on the desktop computer's e-mail box. RIM's technology, however, allows a person to maintain a single mailbox that always stays in synch.

The patent allows RIM to protect its space and opens a whole new revenue stream for the company.

"When we license this we're going to look for reputable, substantial companies," said RIM's Balsillie.

RIM wants to be able to "pick and choose" its license partners, said IDC's Burden. "They want to see the service proliferate, but they want to make sure it's proliferated by what they see as quality vendors."

Separately, RIM's suit against Glenayre alleges that the company "has engaged in acts of patent infringement, trademark infringement, dilution, unfair competition and false advertising in connection with the development, marketing and sale of wireless handheld products."

While Balsillie wouldn't specify the amount of damages RIM is requesting, he stressed that the suit would ask for injunctive relief, damages, as well as all costs and fees. "They're a blatant imitator of Blackberry."

Glenayre said it had yet to receive any notification of the suit. "We have yet to receive a copy of the formal complaint and we have not received informal communication from RIM either," said Elizabeth Dolcourt, a spokeswoman for the firm.








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