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Patent monger NTP targets Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel for patent infringement

Holding company NTP is quickly cementing its reputation as a patent troll. NTP is now suing U.S. wireless carriers Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel -- claiming that each are in breach of eight patents.

The lawsuits accuse the companies of infringing upon patents related to the sending of emails to mobile phones. NTP seeks jury trials, injunctive relief and monetary compensation related to the sales of phones, PDA and other related communication devices.

NTP complained that the big four U.S. wireless companies violate patents related to “electronic mail system with RF communications to mobile processors and method of operation thereof.” NTP then requested for a U.S. District Court “to enjoin infringement and obtain damages resulting from the Defendant’s unauthorized manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale and/or importation into the United States for subsequent use of sale of products, methods, processes, services and/or systems that infringe one or more claims of U.S. State Patent No. 5,436,960.”

The new lawsuit carries echoes of NTP’s chase on Blackberry maker Research in Motion. After a legal battle that carried on for years, RIM eventually settled to pay NTP $612.5 million in March 2003. At the time, NTP accused RIM of violating a mobile email patent – not unlike what is NTP is alleging that the U.S. wireless companies are infringing upon.

After the settlement, RIM chief executive Jim Balsillie said, "It's not a good feeling to write this kind of check. It's a lot of money for patents that will not survive for sure … We are caught in an ambiguous time in the patent laws and the courts. No one feels good about this, but we are happy to put it behind us."

Unfortunately for other wireless technology companies, NTP’s patents lived on to haunt Palm, which was sued on not dissimilar grounds as the RIM case. NTP quickly followed-up on its successful legal battle with RIM by suing Palm during November 2006. The lawsuit against Palm was also over handheld products that provide email services through a wireless network.

Palm disputed the validity of the patents with the U.S. Patent Office, made a preliminary decision to rule against NTP in Palm’s – and perhaps the entire wireless industry’s – favor. NTP is currently appealing the decision by the U.S. Patent Office.

NTP was founded in 1992 by the late inventor Thomas J. Campana Jr., and holds around 50 patents as its primary asset. After the passing of Campana, NTP is now run by company attorney Donald E. Stout.

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Patent Troll
By acer905 on 9/13/2007 7:08:04 AM , Rating: 5
I can understand a company going after someone for patent infringement if the other company was actually taking business away from them. But when a company never actually makes a product, and just relies on someone to infringe on a set of rather broad patents, thats just cheap.

RE: Patent Troll
By Master Kenobi on 9/13/2007 7:15:35 AM , Rating: 5
NTP is now run by company attorney Donald E. Stout.

All you need to know is in that one sentence.

RE: Patent Troll
By acer905 on 9/13/2007 7:40:59 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, i saw that... but i was really hoping if i just ignored it that it would go away...

RE: Patent Troll
By EntreHoras on 9/13/2007 8:08:53 AM , Rating: 2
NTP is now run by company attorney Donald E. Stout.

I'm afraid to ask but, who is this guy?

RE: Patent Troll
By acer905 on 9/13/2007 8:13:53 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Patent Troll
By UNCjigga on 9/14/2007 11:42:19 AM , Rating: 2
I don't get it--most email communications on phones is just IP network traffic. Wouldn't NTP need a patent on "IP protocol communication via RF" for this suit to have merit, or are they targeting mobile-specific push email technology like they did with RIM?

RE: Patent Troll
By othercents on 9/14/2007 1:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yes you can get email access on any device that has internet access. One of the most common ways is to go to Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail website on your wireless device. So it is now the device manufacturer that is at fault, but if they pay licensing fees to Microsoft for the use or Windows Mobile software then I would expect Microsoft to cover them for the liability of receiving emails since it is a function of the software and not the hardware.

However most wireless carriers are running web portals to help users to setup their email on their devices. Some of these portals have built in push technology that will check your POP mail and send it to the device. The function of being able to receive the email has nothing to do with the portals.

The next step is that most carriers also have phones that are re-branded just for them. This is definitely the worse case of Patent litigation that I have ever seen. Instead of providing this technology and giving companies ways to add these features to their devices they would rather sue after the fact.


RE: Patent Troll
By HaZaRd2K6 on 9/13/2007 7:54:32 PM , Rating: 2
It's like that old joke: what do you have when you have three lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

A good start.

RE: Patent Troll
By AmberClad on 9/13/2007 8:59:41 AM , Rating: 2
Apparently, they learned nothing from watching the SCO case unfold.

RE: Patent Troll
By pugster on 9/13/2007 9:45:31 AM , Rating: 3
The difference between SCO and NTP is that NTP actually settled with RIM for a good chunk of change. SCO was unsuccessful when they tried to sue.

RE: Patent Troll
By Samus on 9/14/2007 4:00:04 AM , Rating: 2
Right, and now that NTP has a hard-on from successfully settling with RIM for a crazy number (wasn't it like $500 million?) they think they can pimp everyone.

RE: Patent Troll
By feelingshorter on 9/13/2007 11:18:21 PM , Rating: 2
Not uncommon. I read the wall street journal a lot and they explained it clearly how this works. Often, lawyers will buy patents when they think they can make a good argument for it to get money out of it. They then create a company, that doesn't really do anything, or sell anything, except sue people for patent infringement. Following the new york times news, under the caption, best describes these entities as:
"a kind of virtual company."

There is really no surprises here. They aren't the first "virtual company" and i've seen articles like this in both WSJ and businessweek. Happens ALL THE TIME. There are more virtual companies run by teams of lawyers than you think.

For anyone who wants to know some more about NTP
By acer905 on 9/13/2007 8:18:36 AM , Rating: 6
By Master Kenobi on 9/13/2007 3:24:49 PM , Rating: 3
A good read, I had followed the RIM disaster when it happened.

However, I'm waiting for him to tackle AT&T which won't cave like RIM did and will almost certaintly erase most if not all of his patents.

The real trick comes if he tries to argue it affects Microsoft (Exchange Mobile Capability) or Intel (Maker of wireless technologies in computers and many mobile devices) either one of them would destroy this clown.

By xphile on 9/13/2007 9:51:18 PM , Rating: 2
That was indeed an excellent read - well upmarked.

It truly totally sickens me that these lecherous leeches can feel they can take some old claims that broadly mention a few phrases and later specify them as specifically relating to someone else's development. They are SO broad they could relate to nearly damn anything in many cases.

RIM didnt need a single glance at their rubbish patents to do what they did. What kind of society is it when someone can say sorry, looks like someone MAY have done something possibly similar in the past - you are going to have to pay them for it.

If I didn't refer to your crappy work to get where I got to - why the hell should I have to pay you a god damned cent? If I did it all myself even if I did redo the same thing you did, but if I can prove I did it without reference to your work - then it is MY work and just because you maybe did it first shouldnt mean a damn thing.

Then there is the issue that EVEN IF we maybe say ok well it is very clear that you both did the same thing (and sure as hell none of these alleged patent
infringements is even remotely clear that there is real repetition) but ok in cases where maybe it IS clear repetition exists. Then ok maybe it would be a fair practice to say something was due where my continued use of that same work (done by me) was worth something in terms of payment to you because I am in some way affecting the line of business you are in. Id be ok with that.

But not these slimy scum patent holders who have no other business but trying to use the patents to leech of the REAL technology developers in the hopes that they will fold - or the scum way they go about it - targeting the small guys first to build up cash and momentum, and preparing themselves for the bigger prey with results and cash. Often they will take down the really small players, maybe the next real technological marvel gets killed before it ever has a chance to shine - if it happened we'd never know.

In the business world - and particularly in the tech world - this kind of business, its intent and all its staff is the scummiest kind of scum there is. There is no productivity done here, no benefit to anyone else, only pain and suffering in every possible respect. It is like society decided hey some people should legally be able to steal - because legalised theft is pretty much what this is.

Still there is some small justice I guess. Stout's partner Campana died of cancer - how very apt. All I can say is you and all like you should take it as a warning Stout - what goes around comes around.

Wait a minute....
By Spivonious on 9/13/2007 8:41:18 AM , Rating: 2
Can't they sue every wireless networking device manufacturer?

“electronic mail system with RF communications to mobile processors and method of operation thereof.”

So if I send email from my laptop (mobile processor) using 802.11 (RF communications), I owe these guys money.

RE: Wait a minute....
By acer905 on 9/13/2007 8:59:34 AM , Rating: 4
This sort of stuff makes me wish i could go back and get myself a nice patent on the "use of electrons moving through a wire"

RE: Wait a minute....
By Arramol on 9/13/2007 10:17:06 AM , Rating: 5
Are you kidding? This is the US Patent Office we're talking about. If you sent in a patent application for that today, they'd probably think, "Wow, what a brilliant and original idea!"

Enjoy Those Fees
By CKDragon on 9/13/2007 7:21:53 AM , Rating: 5
Even though I realize this whole situation is only going to hurt consumers in the long run, in this particular case I'm not going to cry my eyes out if Verizon gets a taste of their own hidden fee medicine.

It's cutting off my nose to spite my face, but damn it, that face has it coming.

RE: Enjoy Those Fees
By theapparition on 9/13/2007 9:32:45 AM , Rating: 2
Will you cry your eyes out when those same fees increase as a direct result of this frivilous action???

Patenting Quirks
By rdeegvainl on 9/13/2007 5:12:04 AM , Rating: 2
So they can patent having e-mail capability on a phone? Is that allowed, did they ever have a product in design?
This stinks of being horrible for consumers.

RE: Patenting Quirks
By edpsx on 9/13/2007 9:17:24 AM , Rating: 2
Plus this patent was made back in 1995, nowhere near the point of technology in which we are accustom to today.

I think this patent should just be thrown out completely. Reminds me of the whole Rambus debacle.

Seriously Absurd
By mcmilljb on 9/13/2007 2:34:53 PM , Rating: 3
NTP shows us why extending patents to 20 years was the wrong decision. If the government wanted to foster inventions and protect their creators, then they should have decreased the length of patent to about 10 years. I do not see how letting someone create a "design" that they are not going to build be useful to Americans or anyone else. This patent was filed in 91 and granted in 95, so they had no idea of the greater use of RF communication at the time, and they should have said cried foul earlier. It is interesting how RIM referenced this patent in their patents. I just have to roll my eyes at them for that move.

By hsoverma on 9/13/2007 11:19:37 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder how many emails NTP has sent using the networks of those they are trying to sue? Would be funny if their provider dropped them as a customer.

I might be able to understand these lawsuits if the point was to simply ensure the patents are being enforced, and if the patents were truly innovative, however; its purely about money with this NTP company.

And if NTP continues to win, guess who pays for the settlements? You and me!

The companies sued will simply pass the amounts to the consumers in the consumers' monthly bill (as it becomes another business expense, like taxes, payroll, etc.)

Everyone's phone bill will go up a couple bucks each month, and life goes on.

Now how is this 'PROTECTING' the consumer or the patent? All I see it as is making a few people unbelievably rich at the expense of people struggling to pay the phone bill.

RIM me
By dstroope on 9/14/2007 8:08:42 AM , Rating: 2
I would almost guarantee that Stocker proceeds on these cases with his nice little blackberry in his shirt pocket...

By TimberJon on 9/14/2007 4:09:13 PM , Rating: 2
What do you call 1 lawyer on the moon?

A problem.

100 Lawyers on the moon?

A problem.

All the lawyers on the moon?

Problem solved.

By marsbound2024 on 9/13/07, Rating: -1
RE: Humorous
By leidegre on 9/13/2007 7:13:19 AM , Rating: 3
That's not really the point is it? It's a fact that th system as it's now is easly explotied by anyone.

What would happen if the big companies started issuing patents for everything you could possible thing of. You'd be supprised how quick one would endup with a monopoly similar economy.

Everytime I hear about patents and the US, I get upset, becuase it's never novel nor sound.

RE: Humorous
By marsbound2024 on 9/13/2007 9:51:26 AM , Rating: 2
Well to me it was humorous just how it sounded. Sure the situation sucks and it is really dumb and NTP are jackasses, but it just reminds me of childhood bullies and how they are stereotypically portrayed. Obviously your sense of humor is limited or you just aren't as easily amused as I. And yes, the photograph is pretty funny, too, but it is way old.

So despite the fact that I admit that the situation sucks, I like to make light of it. Lighten up dude.

RE: Humorous
By marsbound2024 on 9/13/2007 9:55:03 AM , Rating: 2
Besides, we ALL know the judicial system are pushovers for lawsuits. If that hasn't been able to be made humorous by now, then you are living a sad life. People sue for anything these days and although this suit isn't entirely frivolous, it is obvious that NTP is going out on a limb and is just wanting money. The system is so effed up. The United States is so effed up really... that I find it humorous. Here is Corporate America being bullied around by some patent company. First RIM, then Palm, now Verizon and all of them. It's gettin em all! I suppose some of us (like you sir) just cannot see the humor in my analogy. Oh well, if that's the case, then just ignore it.

RE: Humorous
By joeld on 9/13/2007 8:37:03 AM , Rating: 2
no, what's humorous is the headline photo...

RE: Humorous
By darkpaw on 9/13/2007 9:07:09 AM , Rating: 2
So thats what my cat is doing when I'm at work. I knew the retarded fluffball routine was just a cover for something.

RE: Humorous
By AmbroseAthan on 9/13/2007 9:30:07 AM , Rating: 3
"Kitty has u in his sitez, snipin all ur iPhonz!"

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
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