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Cut Off Their BlackBerrys? Feds Give It Thumbs Down

November 12, 2005|James S. Granelli | Times Staff Writer

Don't stand between bureaucrats and their BlackBerrys.

Eager to keep federal thumbs tapping, the Justice Department this week stepped into a long-running patent dispute that threatens to pull the popular and addictive BlackBerry hand-held e-mail device off the market.

The feds want to ensure that even if a judge stops BlackBerry sales and service, government workers won't get cut off.

"It is vital to be able to communicate in real time with private parties, including government contractors, through BlackBerry devices," the Justice Department said in a statement of interest filed Tuesday with the District Court in Richmond, Va.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. lost a patent case brought by technology firm NTP Inc. and faces an injunction that would halt sales of new units and e-mail service to existing devices in the U.S.

Research in Motion was buoyed by the filing. As the Justice Department's filing states, it would be technically challenging to separate federal workers from other users. NTP, though, already has said that it wants to exempt all government workers -- federal, state and local -- from the injunction and that doing so would be relatively easy.

Government lawyers could not be reached Friday because of the Veterans Day holiday.

What, no BlackBerrys?

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