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Patent law reforms still needed

Says CEO of BlackBerry maker

The US government is moving in the right direction with its efforts to reform its patent process by making it tougher for companies claiming infringement to get court injunctions, a top executive at RIM (Research In Motion), which settled its own patent fight in March, has said.

RIM, maker of the popular BlackBerry wireless device, is encouraged by the US Supreme Court's ruling this month saying courts need to look at several factors instead of awarding near-automatic injunctions against the sale of products found to infringe patents, said Jim Balsillie, RIM's chairman and co-CEO, during a speech yesterday. The court sided with eBay in a patent infringement case brought by online auction company MercExchange.

But Balsillie, whose company agreed in March to pay $612.5m (about £327m) to NTP to settle a patent infringement claim, also called on the US government to push intellectual property protections worldwide. Asked by an audience member how small software vendors could protect their products in countries with high software piracy rates, Balsillie said the US government needs to push for intellectual property protections while it's at its "pinnacle of influence".

"You have a great opportunity to lead, and there's a great need for leading these issues globally," said Balsillie, who spoke before the Potomac Officers Club, a networking organisation for Washington DC business executives.

However, it's too easy for people in the US to blame governments in China and Russia for software piracy, Balsillie added. Piracy is as much a "human condition" as a government-driven condition, he said, and many residents of other countries face harsher economic conditions than people in the US "This is not the same kind of wealth," he said.

Talking of US patent reform efforts, Balsillie praised the US Patent and Trademark Office for looking at ways to speed up the patent re-examination process and the US Congress for considering bills to improve the process for granting patents.

The US government is making "tremendous progress" in improving its patent system, Balsillie said. "[But] it's got much, much more to do," he added.


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