Judge Tells NTP To Hold Off On Lawsuit Until Patent Office Rules

from the why-only-now dept

You might remember a little company called NTP. You've never used an NTP product, nor ever paid them for any services. In spite of that, last year they earned more than $600 million -- by virtue of their patent infringement settlement with RIM. They failed at bringing their mobile email system to market, and once the BlackBerry took off, they saw a chance to get rich and ride on the coattails of the company that actually innovated and made mobile email successful. One of the biggest problems during the lawsuit was that the Patent Office was proceeding towards invalidating NTP's patents, since they're both unoriginal and obvious. This was such a problem in the RIM-NTP case because the judge wasn't willing to delay the case until the Patent Office issued its final rulings -- and RIM's settlement has no contingencies should the patents be invalidated, so it's out the $612 million either way. Where things get odd is that the very same judge has ruled that NTP's similar suit against Palm is on hold until the USPTO rules. While the judge has taken the correct step in this case, it's hard to see why he wouldn't do the same thing in the RIM case, since the USPTO was well down the path of rejecting the patents by the time the settlement was reached.


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  1.  
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    Sanguine Dream, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 6:12pm

    Pretty obvious...


    While the judge has taken the correct step in this case, it's hard to see why he wouldn't do the same thing in the RIM case, since the USPTO was well down the path of rejecting the patents by the time the settlement was reached.


    I hate to sound like a conspiracy nut but I wonder how much of a "thanks" that judge got when he awarded NTP that $612mil paycheck.

     

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  2.  
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    Joe Smith, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 6:31pm

    Differences

    There is one legitimate difference between the two cases - the RIM case had gone through trial and appeal while the Palm case is just getting started. Also the patent re-examination process is further ahead today than it was when the Judge pressured RIM into paying the $600 Million.

    On a practical level, the Supreme Court said in eBay and MercExchange that the approach used by the Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit for injunctions, which was the approach applied by this judge to RIM, is fundamentally flawed. If the RIM and NTP case had been dealt with after the eBay decision the outcome would probably have been different.

    I expect that the Judge in question has been on the receiving end of a certain amount of negative feedback on his handling of RIM.

    BTW, what is the status of the re-examination and appeals by NTP?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 6:31pm

    It's simple. RIM is a Canadian company.

     

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  4.  
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    Joe Smith, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 6:51pm

    Canadians

    "It's simple. RIM is a Canadian company."

    Loewen Brothers (whch was a billion dollar Canadian company destroyed by a Southern court over a 5 million dollar deal gone bad) would probably agree that there is an anti-Canadian bias in the American courts.

    A few years ago the Canadian Supreme Court refused to extradite some men accused of fraud to the US because the conduct of the prosecutor in the case had been so outrageous that the Court felt there was no real prospect of a fair trial.

     

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  5.  
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    boomhauer (profile), Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 7:07pm

    fair?

    you mean we're sposed to be fair to the nucks? ;)

    on the topic of rim, that company is amazing.. i owned their stock back in 00 and did ok but fully expected they wouldnt exist in a few years once bigger players got into the mobile email bandwagon.. and here they are still the top of the pile

    i havent run the numbers to see what that stock would be worth now... ;)

     

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  6.  
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    RevMike, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 8:29pm

    RIM didn't have clean hands

    Don't forget that RIM did a lot of very shady things during that trial. Attempting to fabricate evidence does not get the judge on your side.

    Palm is starting with a clean slate.

     

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  7.  
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    Joe Smith, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 11:54pm

    When the facts and the law are against you

    attack your opponent

    "Don't forget that RIM did a lot of very shady things during that trial. Attempting to fabricate evidence does not get the judge on your side."

    They used a recompiled program rather than the original executable - how exactly is that "shady" if the source code was unchanged?

    The trial was supposed to be about the underlying merits.

    Lots of the people who defend the NTP v. RIM outcome seem to go straight to the argument ad hominem: RIM acted badly in the trial and therefore should pay hundreds of millions of dollars or be shut down and never mind if the NTP patents were valid or not.

     

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  8.  
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    SkepticBlue, Mar 24th, 2007 @ 12:15am

    A little late -- just catching up on the news...

    Joe Smith says:
    There is one legitimate difference between the two cases - the RIM case had gone through trial and appeal while the Palm case is just getting started. Also the patent re-examination process is further ahead today than it was when the Judge pressured RIM into paying the $600 Million.

    Both points are important -- when the RIM case began, there was little "law biz" usable data available that the USPTO had been screwing up software patents. Hell, this case helped to boost the buzz on the net that gave the problem more visibility -- which in turn came to convince the USPTO to reconsider its processes. Without this groundwork being done, the judge had little legal guidance. When the Supreme Court weighed in on eBay/MercExchange and USPTO itself admitted to some problems, the state of the legal art changed considerably. So maybe this is just a case of a good judge factoring in new information/precedence/case law to reach his decision -- rather than succumbing to "pressure" or "anti-foreign bias" or some other nefarious agenda.

    Also: once the decision is reached at trial and survives procedural appeal, nothing else much matters about the behavior of the litigants during the trial.

     

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  9.  
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    ScaredOfTheMan, Mar 24th, 2007 @ 6:24am

    Can't knock him for doing the right thing

    Legal and PTO landscape have changed since the original case, so this time he did it right. Its a wise man who sees the folly's of his ways and corrects them.

     

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  10.  
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    Ferin, Mar 24th, 2007 @ 10:58am

    Probably had something to do with RIM's court room antics pissing off the judge.

     

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  11.  
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    Overcast, Mar 24th, 2007 @ 12:00pm

    I'm sure RIM can find someone to sue if that happens... afterall, two can play that game.

     

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  12.  
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    Joe Smith, Mar 24th, 2007 @ 1:51pm

    integrity

    "Probably had something to do with RIM's court room antics pissing off the judge."

    If that was a factor (and the people who support the outcome seem to universally think it was) then the judge does not belong on the bench.

     

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  13.  
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    bigpicture, Mar 24th, 2007 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Pretty obvious...

    It's because RIM is a Canadian innovative company and Palm is American. It's screw everyone and everything that isn't American, that's the American way. Is that not why the American way is loved the world over?

    China and India, who will be the future world economic powers, would be well advised to get rid of everything to do with the American crappy patent and copyright systems.

     

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  14.  
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    Vincent Clement (profile), Mar 24th, 2007 @ 5:59pm

    Re: Pretty obvious...

    There are plenty of rumors lately about Palm (which does not have deep pockets) being sold to a larger concern such as Motoral (which does have deep pockets). Could be a delaying tactic by the Judge to ensure that NTP is able to not only win the case but receive a payment. This way the judge can put on his resume that is has presided over a billion dollars worth of IP cases.

     

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  15.  
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    Joe Smith, Mar 24th, 2007 @ 6:19pm

    Re: Re: Pretty obvious...

    "China and India, who will be the future world economic powers,"

    Not unless they cure the corruption which is endemic in both countries.

    Right now they are both growing by adopting technologies and practises developed in the West and be piggybacking on Western economies.

    China wants to be a super power but if the West decided tomorrow that it would not buy from or sell to China then China collapses while the West suffers a very temporary and modest increase in the price of applicances, textiles and basic electronic equipment.

     

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  16.  
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    Jack Sombra, Mar 25th, 2007 @ 7:38am

    "China wants to be a super power but if the West decided tomorrow that it would not buy from or sell to China then China collapses while the West suffers a very temporary and modest increase in the price of applicances, textiles and basic electronic equipment."
    If the west blocked China many countries in the west, especially the USA go bankrupt shortly afterwards when China calls in all the foreign debt they own

    Also to "modest increase" try massive increase combined with massive shortage of products. Anyone who thinks the west can survive without China really has never investigated just how much is made by China nor realised that even if something says "Made in the USA” or “Made in UK" that most of the component parts are made in countries like China and just the final bit of the assembly is done in the “official county”

    There is a reason western Gov's ignore China's human rights abuses beyond basic and low key rhetoric and that’s because they know the main tools they have, sanctions/blockades, would hurt the west just as much if not more. Actually more in the minds of the politicos because while the western politicos would get boosted out of office when inflation goes though the roof, China’s leaders would be able to remain in power

     

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  17.  
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    Jack Greenky, Mar 25th, 2007 @ 7:50am

    How to get money back from NTP

    Might a class action lawsuit by the users of RIM to get back any price increases by their service due to the lawsuit payment have any merit?

     

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  18.  
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    Authentic, Mar 25th, 2007 @ 11:39am

    Re: integrity

    On the contrary, we need more judges on the bench that have the courage to sanction illicit and fraudulent conduct during litigation. Otherwise, the rule of law does not apply, and corruption reigns.

     

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  19.  
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    Howard Plumley, Mar 27th, 2007 @ 11:00am

    Re: When the facts and the law are against you

    It wasn't that they used a recompiled version, it was that they lied about it and got caught. They tried to sucker the judge and will never be forgiven.

    Remember that Arthur C. Clarke had the idea for geosynchronous communication sattelites in the 1940s and could not get a patent, "because that cannot be done!" In the 1960s when it was first being done he was disallowed a patent be cause the idea was 'obvious'. NTP status as patent troll forgets the engineer who had an idea and got a patent. If it is disallowed as 'obvious' then a lot of software patents should vanish.

     

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  20.  
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    Niki Freedom, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 4:00pm

    What about Visto patents...

    What patents address is not yet handled by any other legal construct. EEC law on software patents suffer similar issues. I guess the real problem is for the inventor and the patent office and the lack of tools to find prior art before filing a patent. In the case of NTP there was prior art as John Markoff found out and expressed in his article in the NYT. The article was about Mr. Goodfellow and his "prior art" over NTP patents being "bought out" by NTP. That was the lawsuit against RIM that settled for more than 600 milion dollars. I would be curious to know what the PSTO says about Visto patents on wireless email since they are suing RIM, Palm and Microsoft according to the news. For the ones interested in the matter there is a list of links available at http://blog.freedomail.com including the NYT article mentioned above.

     

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