The company that successfully sued Research in Motion for $612.5 million in 2006 is back in the patent lawsuit game. NTP has filed suit against Apple, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft and Motorola over claims the companies are infringing on an email patent.
Patent-holding company NTP filed the lawsuits late Thursday in a federal district court in Richmond, VA. According to a news release issued by NTP, the big cellphone makers are illegally using its patented wireless email technology.
“Use of NTP’s intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair to NTP and its licensees,” Donald E. Stout, NTP’s co-founder, said in the press release. “Unfortunately, litigation is our only means of ensuring the inventor of the fundamental technology on which wireless email is based, Tom Campana, and NTP shareholders are recognized, and are fairly and reasonably compensated for their innovative work and investment. We took the necessary action to protect our intellectual property.”
In 2006 NTP sued Research in Motion (RIM), makers of the BlackBerry, for $612.5 million. RIM settled after the long-running lawsuit threatened to shut down the company’s wireless e-mail service. Engineer and inventor Thomas J. Campana Jr., and lawyer Donald E. Stout founded NTP in 1992. Campana died in 2004.
The company has patents ranging from wireless email to the design of radio antennas on mobile devices.
Critics say NTP is nothing but a patent troll, producing no product or service other than demanding other companies license its patents.
According to the press release, the RIM lawsuit led to a re-examination of NTP’s patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In December 2009, the release says, the USPTO Board of Patent Appeals (USPTO Board) ruled 67 of NTP’s patent claims in four patents are valid, including three claims that RIM was found to have infringed.
Infringement of a single claim is all that is needed for a patent to be deemed violated.
“The filing of suit today is necessary to ensure that those companies who are infringing NTP’s patents will be required to pay a licensing fee,” Stout said. “In view of the USPTO Board’s ruling, the debate over whether Mr. Campana was an originator in the field of wireless email is over. No patents in U.S. history have received as much scrutiny as NTP’s patents. We are confident the USPTO’s rejections, which are on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, will be overturned.”
The payload for winning the lawsuits is still not clear, but some experts say it could be hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the New York Times, however, “It could be far less because technology and product designs change quickly and recent smartphone e-mail systems may well have been designed with an eye toward avoiding NTP’s patents.”
NTP has licensing agreements with Research in Motion Limited, Good Technology, Inc., Nokia Inc., and Visto Corporation.
- Credit: Steve Jobs photo by Matt Yohe (Source)