BlackBerry maker settles patent dispute for $US268M

Rival Visto grants RIM perpetual license and some IP

After three years of combative and abstruse legal maneuvering, Research in Motion announced today it had thrown in the towel and will pay Visto Corp. $US267.5 million to settle a patent infringement dispute.

Of course, RIM didn't say it threw in the towel. It said it had "entered into a definitive agreement to settle all outstanding worldwide patent litigation between the companies."

In the deal, RIM gets a perpetual and fully-paid license on all Visto patents, plus a transfer of some Visto intellectual property, in exchange for the one-time payout of a quarter of a billion dollars. The rest of the terms and conditions are confidential, according to the statement issued today by RIM.

The deal is supposed to be final during the week of July 20.

Most of that money will be expensed as an "unusual item" in RIM's second fiscal quarter. The rest will be classified as an "intangible asset."

It can be argued that patent litigation and settlements are not all that "unusual" for the BlackBerry maker. The best known, a 5-year battle with NTP over disputed patents, ended in March 2006 with RIM agreeing to pay out $US612.5 million for licenses. Two months later, Visto filed its own infringement suit against RIM, and against several other mobile email vendors, including Seven, Good and even Microsoft. Visto eventually settled with Seven, and bought Good from Motorola.

Meanwhile NTP wasn't resting on that pile of RIM cash. It was using a good chunk of it to carry forward suits it filed in 2007 against AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

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