February 23, 2006 10:45 AM PST

NTP slams RIM on eve of crucial hearing

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has repeatedly mischaracterized the validity of disputed NTP-held patents and wielded political influence to advance its position, the patent-holding company charged Thursday.

The Virginia-based company issued the allegations in a press release on the eve of a much-anticipated court hearing before a federal judge in Richmond, Va. At Friday's proceedings, lawyers for NTP, RIM and the federal government will argue over a possible injunction that could shut down most BlackBerry sales and service in the United States. They will also discuss the amount of damages due to NTP from RIM.

NTP successfully sued RIM for patent infringement in 2002 and won an injunction, stayed pending appeal, to halt most sales of RIM's BlackBerry wireless e-mail device and service in the United States.

While the case has worked its way through the court system, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began re-examining the validity of NTP's patents.

RIM arguably received a boost on Wednesday, when the Patent Office issued a final rejection of one of the five patents in dispute in the long-running case. The Patent Office has previously issued "non-final" rejections on all of the patents.

But the Patent Office's latest step is far from the final say in the matter, NTP argued Thursday. "RIM's assertions that the patents have been invalidated are flatly wrong," the company said in its statement. That's because NTP can--and is expected to--appeal the final rejection to the Patent Office's board of patent appeals and, if necessary, a federal appeals court.

RIM was quick to dismiss its opponent's claims, calling the press release a "publicity stunt" and a "shameless diversionary tactic." "It won't change the fact that the patents have been soundly rejected despite NTP's attempts to obstruct the process," Mark Guibert, the company's vice president of corporate marketing, said in a statement sent to CNET News.com.

NTP also lashed out at RIM for allegedly using "its money, power and political influence to overcome its complete defeat in the court system and to inappropriately influence the U.S. Patent Office process." The company charged that the patent re-examinations resulted from negotiations between the Patent Office and RIM's lobbyists, one of whom it described as a former high-ranking Patent Office official, though it said it has been "denied access" to those communications.

"Permitting patent re-examinations to be influenced by lobbying efforts of a losing willful infringer destroys fairness in the patent system for any and all companies," the company said.

In its wide-ranging list of grievances, NTP also argued that the Patent Office failed to fulfill its own request to expedite the patent re-examination process when Thomas Campana, the inventor to whom the disputed mobile e-mail patents are credited, was on his deathbed in 2004. "We begged them to please expedite things, and they promised to do it, but then they gave it to new examiners, and they apparently had a different agenda," James Wallace, NTP's lead counsel, said in a telephone interview.

CONTINUED: Trying to sway critics…
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NTP and RIM situation
One of the most glaring oversights in the ongoing discussion ogf this whole somewhat sordid business pertains to the legitimacy of intellectual property consolidation firms that exist for no reason other than to extort "license" fees from operators and developers of real products and services. Companies like NTP, that exist ONLY to consolidate intellectual property patents that it has NO intention of ever using in a product development or service offering, but that it has every intention of using to gain financial advantage from those that do, should be rendered invalid (even illegal, if necessary) by the FTC and our legal system.

The new mantra of IP/patents in the 21st century should be "If you own it, use it. If you own it and don't use it, lose it." Make the sale of same to non-developers/operators purely for the purpose of what amounts today to legal extortion, invalid or even illegal.

This would put firms like NTP out of business (good riddance), and make the patent issuance and use process much more straight forward for legitimate developers and operators.

P.S. I know - wishful thinking, but an issue that needs to be brought up until something is done about it, and we restore a bit of order to the process of innovation and (legitimate) intellectual property protection.
Posted by doctordrb (1 comment )
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I agree
NTP is nothing more than an extortionist. NTP will lose. Even if they win in the courts (which we won't see for several years) RIM has a work around. Then, with appeals and other legal wrangling, they can put off paying any damages the courts decide NTP is entitled to until the final amount is so small, it won't affect RIM's bottom line in the slightest. RIM will go on to make millions and NTP will still be there, holding their worthless patents.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
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Finally !
I'm about to cry...someone with a real clue..thank you..but unfortuately this smacks of a good idea and we all know how congress takes "good" ideas...now i feel sick...uuugggh who again is claiming democracy is the ulitmate answer..and yes there are better ways (proportional government anyone, a type of democracy i know but it has to better then this hill o crap)
Posted by epiccollision (105 comments )
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RIM could just shut down tomorrow
... and to hell with the patent trolls at NTP. It has been done before when innovators get sick and tired of the system in the US.

Anyone besides me remember Number Nine video cards, and the like?
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
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Patent Trolls ??
If I patent or copyright something and then set up a licensing company to negotiate fees, why am I a troll? The NTP patent guy died. His wife still owns a big chunk of NTP.

The NFL, MLB and NBA all have copyright
"trolls." If you want to use their stuff, you must pay a fee. If I own something, why am I a troll for stopping you from stealing it ??
Posted by regulator1956 (577 comments )
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patent trools
The first question is do they own it. It appears that the patent office is about to say no. I haven;t looked at the patents involved but like most of the ones issued these days that don;t meet even a loose definition of the trivial test or the prior art test. The reason NTP appears to a patent troll is they've never built a product and seem to be essentially lying under a bridge with a big club (the patents in question) and jump out from underneath their brige yelling I'm going to eat you(read take a large sum of money) or you can pay me a toll and I;ll play the same game on the next poor fool who comes along.
let's face it the patent system is fatally broken. They issue patents for the most trivial ideas and they only work for firms that have the money to play the game. Finally we'll never really know the truth in this situation as the lawyers on both sides are in a feeding frenzy and the more confusion they can sow the more money individual lawyers will make.
Posted by mpotter28 (130 comments )
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