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Wi-LAN chief executive Jim Skippen. (Jonathan Hayward For The Globe and Mail/Jonathan Hayward For The Globe and Mail)
Wi-LAN chief executive Jim Skippen. (Jonathan Hayward For The Globe and Mail/Jonathan Hayward For The Globe and Mail)

Patent firm Wi-LAN sues Research In Motion Add to ...

Ottawa-based Wi-LAN Inc. has launched a patent suit against Research In Motion Ltd. , adding to the challenges facing the troubled BlackBerry maker.

The suit, filed in a U.S. district court in Florida, claims that the BlackBerry maker is infringing on two patents belonging to Wi-LAN — U.S. Patent No. 5,515,369 and U.S. Patent No. 6,232,969.

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The “369” patent relates to the way BlackBerry smartphones and the PlayBook tablet use Bluetooth, a means of short-distance data transmission between devices. Wi-LAN says about 60 models of RIM devices infringe on that patent.

The “969” patent relates to the “sym” key on several of the more recent families of BlackBerry smartphones, including the Bold, Torch, Curve and Pearl.

The claim against RIM says Wi-LAN has been “irreparably harmed and monetarily harmed” but doesn't provide a financial amount. It does say that, if the claim is upheld, RIM should pay triple the damages if it's found to have willfully infringed on the patent.

Wi-LAN's suit also asserts RIM should have known that it was infringing on the Bluetooth patent since it is the subject of litigation between the Ottawa-based patent house and one of RIM's suppliers — Texas Instruments.

Patents can be incredibly valuable because they provide the legal right to use certain unique technology.

Wi-LAN specializes in licensing out rights to the patents in its portfolio and has a record of exacting multi-year licence agreements with companies after fighting successful legal battles that sometimes take years to resolve.

A spokeswoman for Wi-LAN said Monday the patent suit against Research In Motion was part of a normal course of business and unrelated to the weekend announcement that RIM's co-CEOs were stepping aside.

Wi-LAN doesn't comment on the cases when they're before the courts, she said.

The suit, which filed late Friday in the U.S. district court for the Southern District of Florida and announced Monday, is the latest challenge for RIM, which is in the midst of a major shakeup of its senior management.

RIM has a new chief executive officer, who will replace Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.

They are being replaced by Thorsten Heins, a little-known RIM executive who has the job of trying to pull Research in Motion out of a big slump.

 
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