Print 31 comment(s) - last by ipay.. on Jul 14 at 10:58 AM


It's been years since infamous patent troll NTP actually developed any new intellectual property or looked to produce anything. Yet it's just launched its biggest suit yet, suing Microsoft, Google, Apple, and more.  (Source:
Life is good for NTP -- they don't have to make anything to make money, they just sue people who do

The last time notorious Virginia-based patent troll NTP, Inc. climbed out of its cave was back in 2007 to sue Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel for patent infringement.  We guessed at the time that we hadn't seen the last of the firm.  We were right.

NTP, Inc. just filed a massive new suit against Apple, Google, Microsoft, HTC, LG, and Motorola claiming the firms are in massive violation of its patents on wireless email technologies.  One has to wonder, even given NTP, Inc.'s vast experience in litigation, if it has this time bit off more than it can chew by declaring war on virtually all the tech industry's top players (well... besides IBM, HP, and Dell -- maybe they're next).

The firm does have a significant victory under its belt from a $612M USD settlement with Blackberry maker Research in Motion over the same technologies.  After its loss, RIM fought to invalidate NTP's patents.  It succeeded in getting some examined and overturned, but improper dealings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office weighed heavily on its reexamination requests, leading to 67 claims in four of NTP reviewed patents surviving.

With those patents intact, NTP still had enough ammo to apparently go gunning for the top players in the smart phone industry today.  NTP's cofounder Donald E. Stout complains, "Use of NTP's intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair to NTP and its licensees. 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."

NTP -- or at least its other co-founder -- at one time could be considered an innovator in the fields of internet software and electronics.  It was co-founded with the late inventor Thomas J. Campana Jr. who invented and patented a form of push email back in 1990.  Campana Jr.'s numerous patents formed the basis of NTP's IP library.

In recent years, though NTP has developed no new technology and has only subsisted off a career of zealous litigation against companies like RIM and others who actually produce products.  Palm was among NTP's other recent victims, being sued back in 2006.

Such patent battles typically drag out for some time in court, so the conclusion of this one may not come for some time.

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My first -1
By choadenstein on 7/11/2010 1:22:59 AM , Rating: 5
I know most of the readers here and clearly the author of the very opinionated blog posting have already made up their mind about the US patent system, so I welcome my first -1 rating for this posting.

However, I must say that most of you are horribly misinformed in regards to the patent system, the way it works and how even "trolls" can be beneficial to the scientific community.
I will try to address every misinformed post that are current through my posting.
i) Spivonious - Patent Reform - How can they have a patent on event driven e-mail systems on mobile devices?
Answer - because the patent in question (cited by you) has a priority date of 1991. Meaning the invention dates to 1991. Please name the mobile device in 1991 that had an event driven e-mail system. I remember having a sky pager and seeing people with brick sized mobile phones in 1991. Please tell me the mobile device in 1991 that had a e-mail system at all.
You do not look at the state of the art today when looking at patent infringement suits. You look at the infringed patent based on the filing date of the patent, or the priority date if earlier. I won't get into the finer details of priority dates, but the point stands... 1991... Name the mobile device you had in 1991 that had an event driven e-mail system. Otherwise, this is a valid and completely relevant patent.

ii) The cacophony of people agreeing with Spivonious - multiple points.
Homer Simpson test - it exists in 35 USC 103 - called the test of obviousness. Refer to above in regards to the obviousness of mobile e-mail devices in 1991. Remember, you have to take the point of view of the time the patent was filed, not the world as it is today. Sure, terrorists flying a plane into buildings sounds obvious today. Ask someone in 1991 if they thought that was something a terrorist would obviously do. Patent infringement is the same way... STOP THINKING ABOUT WHAT IS OUT THERE TODAY!!! PATENTS ARE FOR THE CUTTING EDGE!!! If you look at any patent that issued, it is out of date compared to today's technology. Why? Because the average patent takes 4 years or more from filing to issue. The inference is that every patent that issues this coming Tuesday (the day the USPTO releases its issued patents every week) has already been on the market for an average of 4 years. So simply saying, pffft... that's obvious and dumb... realize that anything that ISSUES in 2010, was most likely filed in 2006 and was examined based on 2006 technology.

The patent cited by Spivonious had a priority date of 1991... So it was examined in view of technology available in 1991. In 1991, it was probably quite novel and non-obvious.

cmdrdredd... Easy to fix. Sure 10 years old limit. Fine, then your fix is to change the duration of a patent from 17 years from issue to 10 years. Fine. But please know patents already expire, just not as soon as you want. Currently 17 yrs from issue. If 10 years makes you feel better, petition your congressman/congresswoman.

Bioniccrackmonk - of course it should be applied to netbooks or anything else. Again, it was filed in 1991, any product using its patented technology is covered and will infringe. EVEN IF THAT PRODUCT WAS NOT IMAGINED. Why? Because the new product is INCORPORATING patented technology.

Masamasa and all the other people stating that purchasers or holders of patents are bottomfeeders, etc... - Please realize that there is a large market for purchasing patents and intellectual property. This actually, contrary to popular belief, DOES help the scientific community. Why? Because patents are expensive, and getting them even more so. The average patent costs about $20K to get and maintain for its lifetime. So, every researcher or engineer, etc. that wants to protect its IP must spend a good sum of money trying to protect their product/research/findings whatever. Not every patent that issues becomes a big payday for the inventor. Therefore there are patent holding companies who will step in and buy your patents to help you recoup the cost of receiving the patent and some of the R&D involved. The seller gets some money back and gets to continue with R&D and the holding company gets to hold the patent hoping that someone in the future will infringe. These "trolls" are actually injecting quite a large amount of money into the R&D scene.

ChickOn and responders - Actually, a Patent Examiner's pay is partially based on how many patents they REJECT. So they get more money if they reject your applications then let them through. I will say that what can happen is if a patent agent/attorney pushes and pushes and pushes, sometimes it is easier for an Examiner to fold than it is to keep rejecting... But that is less often the case. In fact, you will (almost) never see a patent go through unopposed. Pull any patent and you can see the file wrapper showing how many times it was rejected and responded to before it was issued. Average is about 3 rejections per patent.

Ascanius - Ugh.... So many things wrong here. First off... Nope, zero perpetual motion/free energy patents. In fact, they are barred from patentability, because current thinking is that such devices cannot exist.
Second, the US Constitution (Article I Section 8) gave Congress the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." So, if you want to get rid of the patent system, first you need to change the US Constitution.

Pjotr - I hope you are aware that the Supreme Court of the United States just ruled on June 28, 2010 that software patents and business method patents are patentable - even though they declined to set a new standard for determining what is and is not patentable. Bilski v. Kappos. So, until you see some need judges on the SCOTUS, software and business method patents are here to stay.

Ok, that's about it. I implore everyone to learn more about patents and patent law before making absolutely baseless comments on a complete misunderstanding of the system. Are there flaws, of course there are. The patent system sucks, but not for the reasons you all keep espousing. The most frustrating of all is that whenever someone files a lawsuit, listening to people say, uh, duh... my iPhone has that already. GD it... The patents are almost 20 years old, it's not based on what you have today... It's based on when the patent was filed.

I welcome my -1, thank you for not reading the entire post and simply rating me down!

RE: My first -1
By killerclick on 7/11/2010 5:42:42 PM , Rating: 3
How about if I patent a wearable display that beams an image on the eye with a laser? Clearly it will be done sometime in the future, should I simply patent it and wait for some brilliant engineer to make it before I sue him and his company for all they've got?

Ideas are worth nothing, it's what you do with them that should count.

RE: My first -1
By choadenstein on 7/11/2010 8:28:53 PM , Rating: 3
The current US patent system requires you to not only conceive of an idea, but you must have reduced the invention to practice as well. So, therefore, your idea of having a wearable display... is not yet patentable, until you reduce the idea to practice.

That, however, does not mean that there has to be a current market for your patentable idea that you reduced to practice. For instance, it is ok that no cell phones had e-mail back in 1991, as long as the inventor of the patent reduced it to practice (i.e., had a mobile device that could receive e-mail via RF signals), he can receive the patent on it. If later a market appears for the device, he can then assert his rights in the invention by way of the patent.

The patent system is not as ludicrous as you make it out to be.

RE: My first -1
By killerclick on 7/12/2010 10:11:52 AM , Rating: 2
I suppose I could make a clunky, heavy device that projects some simple image on the eye just in order to be able to claim the invention is in practice, never mind that its crudeness would make it useless until some engineers refine it twenty years from now.

RE: My first -1
By ipay on 7/14/2010 10:58:14 AM , Rating: 2
How can it be patentworthy to transfer information using existing technology?

Transfering encoded information over RF was nothing new back then and that is what this patent boils down to. Why should it matter wheter this information contains an e-mail?
Having an interrupt after something was received also was arround back then.

This kind of knowledge was probably extraordinary when the first CPUs were created, but calling that stuff patentworthy 1990?

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