RIM walks away from BBX name after trademark fight

TORONTO Wed Dec 7, 2011 12:17pm EST

A person uses the new Blackberry Bold 9900 at a release party to promote the BlackBerry OS 7 devices in Toronto August 3, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

A person uses the new Blackberry Bold 9900 at a release party to promote the BlackBerry OS 7 devices in Toronto August 3, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion has unceremoniously dumped the "BBX" brand name it had chosen two months ago for its new BlackBerry operating system after a U.S. court embarrassed the beleaguered smartphone maker by slapping a temporary ban on its use.

In yet another public relations debacle for a company that has suffered through a series of them recently, the court said RIM could not use the BBX name until it could sort out copyright infringement allegations.

After a humiliating, four-day BlackBerry service outage two months ago, RIM was apparently in no mood for a drawn-out legal battle over the moniker.

Instead it will call the new operating system "BlackBerry 10," skipping from the latest BlackBerry 7 to illustrate the significance of the upgrade. The new system, once completed, will combine features of the legacy BlackBerry software with the QNX software that now powers RIM's PlayBook tablet computers.

RIM is hoping the transition to a fresh system will make its devices more competitive against software from Apple and Google as well as a resurgent Microsoft.

The BlackBerry maker announced the BBX name at a San Francisco developer conference in October.

Days later, New Mexico-based Basis International said it held a trademark on the "BBx" name and would go to court to protect its property.

Basis, founded in 1985, develops its own software language, databases and toolsets for applications to run on Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems, among others.

At the time, RIM brushed off the threat, saying it did not believe the marks were confusing and that the companies were in different lines of business.

A U.S. federal court in Albuquerque on Tuesday disagreed, granting Basis a temporary injunction barring RIM from using the BBX name at a developer conference in Singapore that started on Wednesday.

"The alleged infringement is likely to cause customers and prospective customers to wrongly believe that the software applications created using Basis's development tools are only compatible with RIM`s BBX operating system," the ruling said.

Late on Tuesday, RIM backed down.

"RIM doesn't typically comment on pending litigation, however RIM has already unveiled a new brand name for its next generation mobile platform," the company said in a statement.

"The BlackBerry 10 name reflects the significance of the new platform and will leverage the global strength of the BlackBerry brand while also aligning perfectly with RIM's device branding."

RIM's Nasdaq-listed shares slipped 1.8 percent to $16.72 in morning trade on Wednesday. Its Toronto-listed stock was down 1.5 percent at C$16.92. The stock has lost 70 percent of its value so far this year.

The company last week warned it would write down the value of unsold PlayBooks and take a charge relating to the October outage. It said it expects to ship less smartphones in the current quarter than in the one that just ended.

RIM reports third-quarter earnings next Thursday.

(Reporting by Alastair Sharp and Sakthi Prasad; Editing by Frank McGurty)

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