NTP's Latest Patent Shakedown Must Wait For USPTO; Why Wasn't RIM Given The Same Consideration?

from the innovation-at-work dept

Even if you just have a passing interest in the topic of patents, you've probably heard of the RIM-NTP case. That's where NTP, a company that ended up with some excessively broad and obvious patents after the inventor was unable to build a product anyone actually wanted to buy, sued RIM, the makers of the wildly successful Blackberry device, claiming patent infringement. The attention the case got caused the US Patent Office to look closely at the patents, and very publicly state that it was rejecting NTP's patents, as they never should have been issued in the first place. However, rather than waiting for the official patent review process to work itself out, the judge in the case pressured the two sides to settle, forcing RIM to cough up $612.5 million for no good reason. It never made sense that the judge refused to wait for the Patent Office to finish its review -- especially since the office had been so public in questioning the validity of the patents.

NTP took its winnings and immediately started looking for others to sue while the patents were still valid. It started with Palm, makers of the Treo. However, in that case, the judge realized what was going on and put the case on hold until the USPTO could make a final decision on the validity of the patents. Not willing to standstill, NTP sued all the national US mobile operators (Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile) for selling devices like the Blackberry and the Treo. Once again, though, it looks as though a judge realizes that it's ridiculous for such a case to go forward when the USPTO has expressed so much skepticism towards the patents. Against Monopoly lets us know that the judge for the Sprint, Verizon and AT&T case has also put the case on hold until the USPTO is done. What no one wants to explain, however, is why RIM wasn't afforded the same opportunity?

Filed Under: patents, uspto
Companies: at&t, ntp, palm, rim, sprint, verizon


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  1. identicon
    Joe Smith, 9 Nov 2007 @ 10:09am

    Re: Rims lied?

    Apparently what happened was RIM were demonstrating an old wireless system as an example of prior art. NTP's counsel pointed out that the compile date on the executable file was more recent than the date RIM was saying that the system had been in operation. The Judge blew a gasket and accused RIM of running a fraud on the court. RIM tried to explain that the executable had been reoompiled from older source code but the Judge would not listen to them or did not understand the difference between source and executable - end of case.

    The reason that the courts are giving more leeway to current defendants is that the pushback from some of the things said in NTP vs. RIM (like the Judge saying in effect that his time was too important to waste on the case) has been so severe that combined with what was happening at the Supreme Court the Federal Circuit became concerned over the (well deserved) damage to its credibility. At the final substantive hearing in the NTP v. RIM case the judge's behavior and comments were disgraceful. Afterwards the whole court was facing and still faces the possibility that the USPTO will ultimately rule that the Court strong armed RIM into paying $612 Million on worthless patents. If the Federal Court had not smartened up either Congress or the Supreme Court was going to clean house on them.

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