BlackBerry Maker RIM Sued Again Over Wireless E-Mail Patents

Emboldened by a recent victory in a patent lawsuit, wireless e-mail software provider Visto Corp. said Monday it is suing Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM), the maker of BlackBerry mobile devices, over similar claims.

It's the latest twist in the tangle of legal battles over wireless e-mail, the most highly publicized of which ended in March with RIM agreeing to pay NTP Inc. $612.5 million to settle a four-year dispute.

Visto, a privately held Redwood Shores-based company, provides e-mail software to cell-phone companies, including Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) and Vodafone Group (VOD).

It filed a lawsuit against RIM in federal court for the Eastern District of Texas on Friday, the same day a jury there handed it a legal victory in its patent infringement case against rival Seven Networks Inc.

The jury found that Redwood City-based Seven had infringed on three of Visto's mobile e-mail patents and awarded Visto about $3.6 million in damages.

Seven, however, has a pending countersuit against Visto. Following the verdict Friday, Seven released a statement saying the battle isn't over, noting that some of the Visto patents at issue are also undergoing re-examination by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Visto also has sued other rivals. It sued Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in December, claiming the latest Windows software for handheld devices infringed on three of its patents. It then filed a similar lawsuit against lesser-known rival Good Technology Inc. in January.

In its newest lawsuit, Visto seeks unspecified damages and a halt to RIM's alleged infringement of four patents related to technology that allows mobile access to data.

"To ignore this blatant misappropriation of our intellectual property is akin to taking these assets that we've invested in and saying they don't matter," Brian Bogosian, Visto's chief executive, said during a conference call Monday.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM said it does not believe its e-mail service infringes on Visto's patents. In fact, RIM said it will now consider asserting Visto infringed on its patents.

"RIM has been monitoring Visto's litigation against other companies in the industry and, based on prior art and actual products in market, RIM believes Visto's patents are invalid," RIM said in a statement.

Shares of RIM traded down $3.60, or 4.7 percent, to close at $73.03 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

NTP, a small patent holding firm based in Arlington, Va., owns a minority stake in Visto but does not have any controlling ownership, Bogosian said.