BlackBerry manufacturer loses case

A federal jury in San Francisco has found beleaguered BlackBerry maker Research in Motion liable for 147.2 million US dollars in damages for infringing on patents held by Mformation Technologies.

Amar Thakur, a lawyer for Mformation, said that the verdict followed a three-week trial and a week of deliberations by an eight-person jury.

Mformation, of Edison, New Jersey, sued Research in Motion in October 2008, alleging that Canada-based RIM infringed on its 1999 invention for remotely managing wireless devices.

Mformation's software allows companies to remotely access employee mobile phones to do software upgrades, change passwords or to wipe data from phones that have been stolen.

Officials at RIM, which has been struggling with plummeting sales and other problems, did not provide a comment.

Mr Thakur said the jury ruled that Research in Motion should pay his client eight US dollars for each of the 18.4 million BlackBerrys that were connected to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, from the day the lawsuit was filed until the time of the trial. That is a total of 147.2 million US dollars.

He said the software at issue is the heart of the business of Mformation, a privately held company with several hundred employees. He said: "We believe it's been fundamental to the success of Research in Motion."

The patent at issue was filed in 2001 and issued in 2005, he said. RIM, of Waterloo, Ontario, has previously denied it did anything wrong.

RIM has seen its business crumble as it increasingly loses market share. Today's consumers want smartphones that go far beyond handling email and phone calls, with built-in cameras and other functions.

Particularly telling is the plunge in the BlackBerry's US market share. It has dropped from 41% in 2007, the year the first iPhone came out, to below 4% in the first three months of this year, according to research firm IDC.