Legal Issues

by Derek Kerton

NTP Plays Word Games

Things are heating up in anticipation of tomorrow's (Feb. 24 06) courtroom showdown between patent holding firm NTP and Blackberry maker, RIM. The patent office is in active "pass the buck" mode, issuing patent rejections in an obvious and public manner to ensure that Judge Spencer is publicly aware that the patents will eventually be eliminated forever. RIM is trading on each of these USPTO announcements, further publicizing that the NTP patents have been issued a "final rejection". And NTP, well, NTP is trying to get around the language "final" by (correctly) noting that a "Final rejection" at the patent office is, in fact, not final. It's true that after final rejection, NTP can appeal the decision at the USPTO, but that appeal will be tested by exactly the same USPTO panel that just issued the final rejection. Chances are almost nil that the NTP appeal will be successful. Then NTP can follow up in a circuit court, and then try to take their appeal to the Supreme Court. The chances of their success are very slim, but they can delay the invalidation of the patents, which only takes place after all appeals have been exhausted. It doesn't matter to NTP whether the patents will someday be invalidated, they just need them in the short term - they don't need to hold the winning cards, they just need to bluff long enough to try to win or settle the court case. At this point, though, Judge Spencer would be irresponsible to heavily and irrevocably penalize RIM on what he must know to be essentially invalid patents. No secret that Techdirt has taken a side on this issue, but to clarify our side, it's NOT with RIM: we're on the side of the American people, of true entrepreneurs and inventors. We see patent actions such as NTP's as among the greatest systematic threats to the American Way, and to America's dominance in technology development. The RIM-NTP case is the call to action on patent reform. We don't have all the answers on how the patent system should be re-structured, but we're smart enough to know when it's broken.

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