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.