Via these pages as well as my BBHub BlackBerry blog, I have been tracking, covering and analyzing the BlackBerry vs. NTP patent infringement case very closely. I now would like to offer you my forecast for what will happen over the next few weeks and months:
Now that U.S. Judge James Spencer has temporarily put off a ruling on the BlackBerry-NTP patent infringement dispute, I have a good idea of subsequent events, and their timing. So here, as first posted on BBHub earlier today, is my take on a possible timetable for the next series of events in this seemingly endless battle of wills between stubborn foes Research In Motion and NTP:
Friday, March 10- Judge Spencer issues a decree summoning both sides for a ruling-hearing for two weeks from that day, which will be Friday March 24.
Friday March 24- Assuming the two sides have not come to an agreement by then, Judge Spencer will declare an injunction, effective in thirty days, which would be Sunday, April 23. On a parallel track, he will empower a Federal arbitrator to immediately begin binding arbitration between Research In Motion and NTP.
Friday March 24- In an effort to boost customer and carrier confidence RIM on that day will issue substantial configuration details for their Multi-Mode workaround. Help files will be publicly posted on the Web. On this date, Multi-Mode will be activated, but it will be positioned as a voluntary back-up option.
Friday March 24- RIM will immediately attempt to appeal the injunction, while reluctantly agreeing to binding arbitration.
Monday March 27- After NTP attorneys spend the weekend studying Multi-Mode, NTP will file suit in Judge Spencer's court to block Multi-Mode from being enacted. Judge Spencer will grant a temporary injunction granting NTPs request and blocking Multi-Mode, while throwing Multi-Mode into the topical mix of issues to be discussed during the arbitration phase.
Monday March 27- Friday April 14- RIM will engage in, and exhaust, the appeals process without experiencing any judicial relief.
Friday, April 14- Prodded by arbitration, the two sides will come to an agreement that will involve either a royalty structure for NTP slightly lower than they had been proposing, a relatively modest stake in RIM, or some combination thereof. These arrangements will have a "Sunset Clause" that would kick into gear in the event of a final invalidation of the five NTP patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office - and the final exhaustion of NTP's appeals of those decisions. Months or perhaps even years away, the Sunset Clause would involve provisions that would enable NTP to sell their equity stake in RIM at fair market value, and would terminate any royalty arrangements without prejudice or further financial obligation by either party.