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Court Refuses Full Appeal in Blackberry Patent Suit

A federal court on Friday denied Research In Motion Ltd.'s (RIMM) request for the full court to rehear its appeal of a long-running patent suit in which the maker of BlackBerry (search) e-mail devices has been found guilty of infringement.

RIM said it plans an appeal to the Supreme Court (search) and will seek a halt to further proceedings until that court decides whether to review the case.

If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the suit against patent holder NTP Inc. (search) would be sent back to a federal district court to reconsider certain aspects of a 2003 jury verdict against RIM. That verdict raised the seemingly remote possibility that RIM might be forced to stop selling BlackBerrys.

RIM's share price slid more than 4 percent after the decision, declining $2.78 to $64.19 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The dismissal of RIM's petition by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit does not have any impact on separate proceedings by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (search). That agency has now issued preliminary rejections of the five NTP patents that RIM was found to have violated in the jury trial. The most recent of those patent office decisions came last week.

Friday's refusual to rehear the case comes two months after a three-judge panel from the appeals court upheld most of the 2003 verdict.

But that decision also identified certain errors during the trial, thereby reversing some of the infringement finding and asking the trial court to review whether those errors tainted the overall jury verdict.

It was unclear what impact Friday's development might have on settlement negotiations between RIM and NTP, which broke down over the summer after a preliminary deal was reached that called for a $450 million payment to NTP.

NTP, based in Arlington, Va., could not immediately be reached for comment.

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, said in a statement Friday that if the Supreme Court doesn't take the case, the company expects the trial court's final ruling will reflect both the patent office proceedings and the preliminary settlement.

The Canadian company also asserted that the patent office rulings should be sufficient to avoid any temporary injunction sought by NTP to prohibit RIM from selling BlackBerry devices, service and software in advance of a final ruling.

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