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12/12/2006
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RIM Sues To Stop Sales Of Samsung's BlackJack Smartphone

RIM claims Samsung infringed on its trademark by giving its smartphone -- the BlackJack -- a name that can be closely associated with RIM's BlackBerry devices.

The overcrowded smartphone market is creating confusion among mobile users; at least, that's what Research In Motion thinks. The maker of the popular BlackBerry PDA/smartphone is suing Samsung for using the name "BlackJack" for its newest smartphone, which the company feels is too similar to the BlackBerry.

In a court document filed late on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, RIM claims Samsung "has committed acts of trademark infringement and dilution and unfair competition" by giving its smartphone a name that can be closely associated with RIM's BlackBerry devices. RIM, which introduced the BlackBerry PDA in 1999, has more than 6 million subscribers globally. The BlackBerry uses RIM's own operating system. The company supplied 53% of the 5.2 million smartphones shipped in the U.S. in 2005.

Samsung rolled out the BlackJack on Cingular Wireless' network in November, touting the latest features and an ultra-thin design. The smartphone is powered by Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system, which comes with "direct push" technology for receiving wireless e-mail. The feature is similar to that of the BlackBerry, offering consumers and businesspeople an alternative in smartphones.

Two months prior, RIM came out with the BlackBerry Pearl, a smaller and sleeker version of the BlackBerry meant to appeal more to consumers. The BlackBerry Pearl includes a digital camera, a multimedia player with a stereo headset jack for MP3 and AAC music files, and, for the first time, an expandable memory slot. RIM claims Samsung's BlackJack resembles the BlackBerry Pearl in many ways.

RIM is asking the court to grant an injunction, which would prevent Samsung from selling its BlackJack smartphone. RIM has plenty of experience with patent infringement lawsuits. The company faced a threat of an injunction that would have shut down its wireless e-mail service in the U.S. before paying a $612.5 million settlement to patent-holding company NTP Inc. earlier this year.

The latest lawsuit shows that RIM is responding to competition it's facing from other smartphone makers. While still preferred in the U.S., the BlackBerry is no longer the only smartphone on the market to offer push wireless e-mail. The latest smartphones from makers like Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung also come with multimedia features and small size. Mobile users have plenty to choose from and that's a difficult fact for the U.S.'s No. 1 smartphone marker to deal with.

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