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BlackBerry sued by hundreds of staffers 'fooled' into quitting

And it's suing Nokia for patent infringement on wireless comms

Long-ago phone-builder BlackBerry has been sued by hundreds of employees who say they were tricked into quitting their jobs.

Canadian law firm Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP says it is representing a class-action lawsuit of more than 300 people who were told by BlackBerry their jobs were being transferred to Ford Canada, a BlackBerry business partner.

According to the lawyers, as part of the transfer process, the employees were asked to sign a form – which they later learned was a letter of resignation. As a result, the suit claims, the workers abandoned their seniority status, and associated benefits, when they joined Ford. They basically had to start all over at the new place, effectively losing their jobs, it is claimed.

"BlackBerry's actions amount to a termination of the employees' employment," the law firm says.

"This entitles these employees to statutory, common law, and/or contractual entitlements on termination. BlackBerry has stated that it will not pay BlackBerry employees any of these entitlements, despite the fact that employees lose all of their years of service."

BlackBerry, for its part, says it has done nothing wrong and will be fighting the suit. "We have reviewed the allegations in the lawsuit, and are confident we complied with all our obligations to our employees," a spokesperson told The Register.

"Therefore, we believe the case lacks merit and we will defend against it vigorously."

The stiffed staff hope to bag CAN$20m ($15m) in damages.

Meanwhile stateside, BlackBerry finds itself on the other end of a suit. In this case, filed earlier this week in the US District Court in Delaware, BlackBerry claims [PDF] that Nokia is infringing on 11 of its US patents for wireless communications:

  • 6,996,418 Apparatus and method for OFDM data communications – "A radio system employing Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexed (OFDM) includes a Base Transceiver Station (BTS) along with a number of mobile terminals located within a coverage area of the BTS."
  • 8,254,246 Scattered pilot pattern and channel estimation method for MIMO-OFDM systems – "A method and apparatus are provided for reducing the number of pilot symbols within a MIMO-OFDM communication system, and for improving channel estimation within such a system. For each transmitting antenna in an OFDM transmitter, pilot symbols are encoded so as to be unique to the transmitting antenna."
  • 8,494,090 Detecting the number of transmit antennas in a base station – "Data is scrambled at a transmitter according to one of a number of predetermined scrambling sequences which are associated with a particular one of a number of predetermined transmit antenna diversity schemes (ie, a specific number of transmit antenna ports). Received data is decoded using one or more of the known transmit antenna diversity schemes and the scrambled data is descrambled according to a corresponding descrambling sequence (related to the scrambling sequence). Based on the descrambled data, the receiver determines which transmit antenna diversity scheme (ie, the number of antenna ports) is used by the transmitter."
  • 7,529,305 Combination of space-time coding and spatial multiplexing, and the use of orthogonal transformation in space-time coding – "It is proposed to combine space-time coding and spatial multiplexing. Also, the use of orthogonal transformation matrices is proposed, which ensures that each bistream contributes to the signal on each antenna."
  • 8,861,433 Method for accessing a service unavailable through a network cell – "In an access device associated with a first network cell, a method for enabling user equipment (UE) to obtain a service unavailable through the first network cell includes receiving a request for the UE to access the service, and identifying, in a message to the UE, a plurality of second network cells providing the service."
  • 9,426,697 Method for accessing a service unavailable through a network cell – "In an access device associated with a first network cell, a method for enabling user equipment (UE) to obtain a service unavailable through the first network cell includes receiving a request for the UE to access the service, and identifying, in a message to the UE, a plurality of second network cells providing the service."
  • 9,253,772 System and method for multi-carrier network operation – "A system and method for configuring a component carrier is presented. A component carrier assignment message is received. The component carrier assignment message may be configured to identify the component carrier and include at least one of a downlink carrier frequency, a carrier frequency of a paired uplink carrier, a bandwidth of the component carrier, and a bandwidth of the paired uplink carrier, an indication of whether the component carrier is a control channel monitoring component carrier configured to signal data channel assignment information for the component carrier, and a logical index of the component carrier. The component carrier assignment message may then be used to configure the component carrier on a user equipment (UE)."
  • 8,897,192 System and method for discontinuous reception control start time – "Methods of combining semi-persistent resource allocation and dynamic resource allocation are provided. Packets, such as VoIP packets, are transmitted on the uplink and downlink using respective semi-persistent resources. For each mobile device, awake periods and sleep periods are defined. The semi-persistent resources are aligned with the awake periods so that most of the time, the mobile device can turn off its wireless access radio during the sleep periods."
  • 9,125,202 Multi-beam cellular communication system – "A cellular communication system comprising a plurality of geographically spaced base stations (2) each of which comprises an antenna arrangement (4, 6, 8) per base station sector, each of which antenna arrangements has an antenna element for generating an array of narrow beams (10, 12, 14) covering the sector. Timeslots are simultaneously transmitted over each of the beams so as to generate successive sets of simultaneously transmitted timeslots per sector. The timeslots are each split into multiple orthogonal codes, for example Walsh codes."
  • 8,243,683 Method and apparatus for state/mode transitioning – "A method and network element to control use of a transition indication message by a user equipment, the method including an inhibit transition indication in a configuration message; and sending the configuration message with the inhibit transition indication to the user equipment. Also, a method and user equipment for sending a transition indication, the method setting a timer according to an inhibit transition indication received from a network element; detecting that a data transfer is complete; and sending the transition indication upon detecting that the timer is not running."
  • 8,644,829 Method and system for signaling release cause indication in a UMTS network – "A method and system for processing signaling release indication cause between user equipment and a wireless network, the method comprising the steps of: monitoring, at the user equipment, whether a signaling connection release indication should be sent to the wireless network; appending, at the user equipment, a cause for the signaling connection release indication to the signaling connection release indication; sending the appended signaling connection release indication to the wireless network; receiving the signaling connection release indication at the wireless network; and filtering said cause to determine whether to raise an alarm."

According to BlackBerry, the patents are being used without license in several of Nokia's LTE-equipped devices and software.

"These include Nokia's Flexi line products, as well as associated Nokia software such as the Nokia Liquid Radio Software Suite," the claim reads.

BlackBerry is not seeking a ban on any of the products, but would like to collect back royalties and damages. ®

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