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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.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton
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