Research In Motion And A Freedom Of Information Act

September 29, 2009 | By | 2 Comments

RIM'sMoney

Thanks to Al Sacco, who wrote this great article that brought to light the ongoing saga of RIM, NTP, and the Department of Justice and the legalities RIM is still facing. It’s an intriguing story and great read if you use a BlackBerry. It began in 2002, it was settled in 2006, but it appears that it isn’t enough.

The US Department of Justice was concerned over the fact that Research in Motion, Ltd. faced a large business injunction in 2005. NTP Inc.’s lawyers were well aware of it. After all, it’s always been known that the U.S. government was the largest single users of the BlackBerry devices at that time.

Let’s start at the litigation in the beginning. In 2002 in a U.S. District Court in Richmond, VA, a jury had found RIM violated certain NTP patents for email technology. In Dec 2004 and again in August 2005 a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit gave two rulings that sent the case back to trial court. Between the last two rulings, RIM’s outside counsel contacted the Department of Justice, requesting them to take public interest in the suit.

Some phone calls and attorney meetings later, they entered into the common-interest agreement, that allowed RIM and the Dept of Justice to share information without waiving privilege in November of 2005.

As stated from an article in Law.com that: “the continued ability to employ those BlackBerry systems and devices is considered of sufficient importance to the U.S. to make necessary” the agreement. RIM and the United States understand that the agreement does not “impair the ability of either party to pursue its own interests in this matter.”

Also from Law.com is the following: “There are no regulations, guidelines, rules or policies that govern common-interest agreements at the Justice Department, although a supervisor generally is required to sign off on them.The same month that the RIM agreement was signed, with the case back before the trial judge, Justice filed a statement of interest with the court to the effect that the government had a “substantial” interest in the proceedings. At a subsequent hearing, Justice lawyers argued for a narrow injunction, a position supporting RIM’s interests — as well as the government’s.”

By March 2006, the litigation was finally over and RIM agreed to pay NTP $612.5 million dollars. No more threats were held over RIM. But it appears the lawyers for NTP hadn’t been aware of the common-interest agreement till then. So Hunton & Williams, a firm that had represented NTP, filed A Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit trying to expose and uncover the behind the scenes actions.
It is perfectly legal to have a common-interest agreement and the Dept of Justice protects the confidentiality and honors and protects the confidences it holds with companies. This case may not only cause some riffs in the tide for RIM, but also in courts and the how the Dept of Justice may work with other companies.
[via: CIO]
It stated that “the continued ability to employ those BlackBerry systems and devices is considered of sufficient importance to the U.S. to make necessary” the agreement. RIM and the United States understand that the agreement does not “impair the ability of either party to pursue its own interests in this matter.”
There are no regulations, guidelines, rules or policies that govern common-interest agreements at the Justice Department, although a supervisor generally is required to sign off on them.It appears that the lawyers weren’t aware that the Dept of Justice and RIM  had entered a common-interest agreement to advance government interests in the patent infringement case. When the case was finally settled, the lawyers had barely found out and now they want to know details.

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