Friday, November 11, 2005

Will the Feds Save Blackberry Service?

On October 27th, I blogged that the U.S. government, a major Blackberry user, might just have to go cold turkey when a court enforces an order that would effectively shut the Blackberry service down pending resolution of RIM's legal problems.

How close I was.

The Wall Street Journal reports this afternoon:

U.S. Government Asks Court To Ensure BlackBerry Service
TORONTO -- The U.S. Government is seeking to ensure BlackBerry emails continue running among its staff if a Virginia court issues an injunction on BlackBerry sales and service in the U.S.

The Department of Justice filed a "statement of interest" in U.S. District Court in Virginia, which is overseeing a patent-infringement battle between BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., or RIM, and Virginia patent firm NTP Inc. The court plans to examine whether it should enforce a failed $450 million settlement between RIM and NTP. If the failed settlement isn't enforced, NTP plans to ask the court to reissue a previously stayed injunction on U.S. BlackBerry sales and service.

NTP has said any injunction wouldn't apply to U.S. federal, state and local governments. But the filing, submitted by Paul J. McNulty, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern Disctrict of Virigina, said that is easier said than done.

``The U.S. government is a major user of BlackBerry devices and technology to allow its employees to access email, and to send messages, when they are away from their offices,'' the filing said. If there is an injunction ``it is imperative that some mechanism be incorporated that permits continuity of the federal government's use of BlackBerry devices,'' it said.
``There appear to be significant issues with the manner in which any injunction is phrased and implemented,'' the filing said. ``There does not appear to be a simple manner in which RIM can identify which users of BlackBerries are part of the federal government, so that email directed to them can be relayed through the BlackBerry system,'' it said.

In other words, the Justice Department is saying to the federal courts, "Hey, it's OK if you cut off the public but God forbid you should cut us Feds off. Wow, that would be a major inconvenience!"

Ain't democracy grand?

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