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Chipmaker NXP sues RIM, accusing BlackBerry devices of patent infringement

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RIM faces allegations in the US that it infringes six patents owned by Dutch tech company.

RIM Headquarters
RIM Headquarters

Patent litigation is nothing new to Research In Motion — facing a nearly fatal injunction several years back before settling with patent holding company NTP for over $600 million — and it looks like they have yet another defensive battle ahead of them. To add to the rather bleak news coming out of RIM lately, they now face patent infringement allegations from a Dutch company called NXP, which filed its complaint in Florida federal court on Monday. NXP, formerly known as Philips Semiconductors, is the co-inventor of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and a leader in electronic passports, RFID and other chip-related identification applications.

NXP alleges that various BlackBerry products infringe six of its patents in this case. However, unlike some of the patent suits we've grown accustomed to in the mobile device patent wars, these NXP patents are, for the most part, highly technical and dry. We're not going to see any slide-to-unlock, scroll bounce or touch heuristic patents in this batch. Then again, this is probably a more accurate representation of what patent fights look like in the tech industry, on average. Let's take a look at what RIM is up against in this case.

Three of NXP's asserted patents (US 5,763,955, US 5,639,697, and US 5,597,668) cover the fabrication and structural details of integrated circuits, and NXP alleges that the BlackBerry Bold, Curve and Torch devices are infringing. Two other patents covering GPS power-up and wireless LAN transmission rules (US 6,501,420 and US 7,330,455) are directed at the Blackberry Torch and Curve smartphones. The last of the six patents (US 6,434,654) is the only one targeting the BlackBerry PlayBook for infringement — that patent relates to bus bridge transfers.

This case is still embryonic so it's too early to accurately gauge whether NXP simply wants to arrive at a licensing agreement with RIM. However, given the nature of the patented technology, that's likely the ultimate goal here. RIM's response to the allegations, and any potential countersuit, are due in short order so we'll start to see the case take shape soon enough.