LEGAL

Roberts Refuses to Halt BlackBerry Case

Research in Motion lost a bid to block proceedings that might result in a nationwide shutdown of its BlackBerry e-mail service. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., right, rejected the Canadian company's request to stop the trial while it seeks a Supreme Court review of a patent-infringement finding.

Research in Motion has the option of filing the request with another justice. In the meantime, the case goes back to a trial judge in Richmond, who will consider ordering a halt to the BlackBerry's U.S. sales and service.

NTP, a patent-licensing firm based in Arlington, sued Research in Motion in November 2001. A year later, a federal jury in Richmond found that Research in Motion used NTP's e-mail technology without permission. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld part of that finding.

Judge Scolds Microsoft Over Music-Player Plan

The federal judge overseeing Microsoft's business practices scolded the company over a proposal to force manufacturers to tether iPod-like devices to Microsoft's music-player software. Microsoft abandoned the idea after a competitor protested.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly demanded an explanation from Microsoft's lawyers and told them, "This should not be happening." She said Microsoft's proposal -- even though it was abandoned 10 days later -- "maybe indicates a chink in the compliance process."

The disputed plan, part of a marketing campaign known as "easy start," would have affected portable music devices that compete with Apple Computer's popular iPod. It would have precluded makers of those devices from distributing to consumers music software other than Microsoft's Windows Media Player in exchange for Microsoft-supplied CDs.

legislation

House Panel Pushes Digital TV

The House Commerce Committee voted to require television broadcasters to switch to digital signals by the end of 2008 and create a $1 billion subsidy to keep older sets working. The deadline is three months earlier than the one called for in a bill passed by the Senate Commerce Committee, which calls for a $3 billion subsidy.

The deadline seeks to ensure that broadcasters give up their analog airwaves so they can be used by local public safety agencies.

REGULATION

Powell Urges Internet Competition

Michael K. Powell, who stepped down as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in March after a four-year tenure highlighted by a campaign to loosen regulation of telecommunications providers, said companies should be encouraged to deliver Internet access to homes in different ways.

"The country ought to devote a lot of energy into creating three or four routes into a home," Powell told the Internet Telephony Conference & Expo in Los Angeles. Saying that competition between cable companies and telephone companies has cut consumer prices for Web access, he encouraged electric companies to use power lines to provide such access.

"The real magic comes when you get three" suppliers of a product, Powell said. "I'm an antitrust lawyer and know that if you can get three, they really start to fight each other."

Lucent Technologies reported that its fourth-quarter profit fell 69 percent, to $374 million, from $1.21 billion. Revenue in the quarter ended Sept. 30 rose 1 percent, to $2.43 billion.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.