February date set for BlackBerry injunction hearing

The federal judge presiding over NTP Inc.’s long-running patent dispute with Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) has scheduled a Feb. 24 hearing to consider imposing an injunction on RIM’s BlackBerry sales and service.

RIM’s legal options for avoiding a BlackBerry shutdown narrowed this week after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review previous decisions that RIM illegally infringed on NTP patents. NTP has asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Richmond, to impose a permanent injunction on RIM. Judge James Spencer on Wednesday placed the February hearing date on the case’s closely scrutinized docket.

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, says it is creating software work-arounds that will let it keep its BlackBerry service in operation even if a legal injunction is issued. The company has an estimated 4 million users for its wireless devices, which offer e-mail, voice and other mobile communications functionality.

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