BlackBerry maker sues wireless rival

Armed with a fresh patent related to its BlackBerry wireless e-mail terminal, Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) Sunday announced the filing of a lawsuit charging rival Glenayre Electronics Inc. with infringing on its process for redirecting messages from a host computer to a mobile communications device.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, which also issued a separate statement about the issuance of the U.S. patent, alleged in the lawsuit that Glenayre has engaged in both patent and trademark infringement in connection with its development and marketing of wireless handheld devices. In addition, the suit includes claims of deceptive trade practices, unfair competition and false advertising against Glenayre.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Delaware, seeks injunctions against Glenayre and unspecified damages. Elizabeth Dolcourt, a spokeswoman for Glenayre, today said that the Charlotte, N.C.-based company hadn't been served with the RIM complaint yet and couldn't comment on the substance of the suit as a result.

Alex Slawsby and Kevin Burden, analysts at market research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass., said in a report issued yesterday that the new patent could be a potent weapon for RIM. "It's clear that RIM is determined to aggressively defend its intellectual property, and any competitor developing a proprietary solution will have to tread lightly or risk the company's ire," they wrote.

The IDC report added that both Palm Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which currently are battling one another in the handheld computer market, "have expressed interest in developing devices or solutions that would hone in on RIM's space." But now, the analysts said, Palm and Microsoft might be better off partnering with RIM.

RIM claims that more than 170,000 users at 7,800-plus companies have signed up for its BlackBerry-based messaging services. The new patent issued to the company covers technology that eliminates the need for users to have mobile e-mail accounts separate from their normal corporate ones. Mike Lazardis, RIM's president and co-CEO, said in a statement that the technology "has been the lynchpin of BlackBerry's success."

The keyboard-equipped BlackBerry devices were originally developed to operate on North American cell phone and packet data networks. But RIM executives in January detailed plans to make the devices available in Europe (no talks yet for an Australian release), and the company announced a marketing deal with British Telecommunications PLC's BT Cellnet unit the following month.

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