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Judge Declines to Shut Down BlackBerry

A U.S. judge on Friday stopped short of ordering an immediate shutdown of millions of BlackBerry portable e-mail devices, but reminded manufacturer Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM) it had already been found to have infringed the patents of NTP Inc.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer also expressed skepticism about RIM's argument that a BlackBerry shutdown would hobble critical public services and infrastructure.

He noted that the company had told investors that its software work-around would avoid disruptions to users.

Wrapping up nearly four hours of arguments, Spencer said there was no escaping that RIM had been found to be infringing on NTP's patents. "The simple truth, the reality of the jury verdict has not changed," Spencer said, adding that the parties should have settled out of court.

Spencer said he would take the arguments he had heard under advisement and issue a decision on an injunction "as soon as reasonably possible."

RIM shares soared on Spencer's decision not to issue an immediate cutoff of BlackBerry service. RIM stock rose as much as 12.7 percent to $78.38 before trimming its gains to $74.78, up 7.55 percent on Nasdaq.

Canada-based RIM has been locked in a court battle for more than four years with privately held NTP, which successfully sued RIM for infringing on its patents.

Earlier on Friday, NTP asked Spencer for an injunction against U.S. BlackBerry service with a 30-day grace period for users and the immediate imposition of $126 million in damages for past infringement.

RIM and NTP reached a tentative settlement of $450 million early last year, but the deal fell apart. Some analysts have estimated that a settlement at this point could cost RIM as much as $1 billion.

The small portable e-mail devices are used by over 3 million U.S. subscribers including government officials and lawmakers.

Some users have complained about thumb injuries from their almost addictive tapping of the tiny keyboards on their so-called "CrackBerries" to send a steady stream of messages during meetings and while traveling.