Just a day after a judge in the NTP-RIM patent fight said that he would not wait for the US Patent Office to complete a review of NTP's patents, that same Patent Office announced a "non-final" ruling on one of the NTP patents, suggesting that the original patent might not be valid. If you've been keeping score, this is just the latest in a long line. Each of the NTP patent the Patent Office has reviewed has come back with serious questions about their validity. In this case, it's the second time this patent has been reviewed. While NTP still gets to respond, the USPTO made it clear that it's extremely unlikely that they'll change their mind. This is important, since RIM was only found guilty of infringing on two patents -- and this is one of them. The oddest part about this, however, is that the reason for finding the patent invalid was that the USPTO reviewed some prior art submitted by NTP's own lawyers -- who still claim that they will prevail in the end. It's not at all clear why they submitted the evidence that seems to discredit their own patents. Either way, the fact that the USPTO appears to have serious doubts as to whether or not these patents are valid seem like a pretty damn good reason for the court not to force RIM to pay out nearly a billion dollars. What happens if the patents are all eventually completely rejected? Does RIM get its money back?
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