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e-Mail Patent Holder NTP Sues US Wireless Carriers

What do you do when your business plan is all about suing other companies..? Hmmm… Let me see…


I caught wind of this the other day, and as I sit here in the hospital while my wife is in labor with our 3rd child, I can’t help but think about NTP. My AT&T Blackjack continues to go off, at least 2-4 times an hour.

You may recall that NTP is the company that sued RIM a few years back alleging that RIM infringed on the patents they hold for transmitting e-mail to a wireless handset. While at least 2 of the 5 patents that NTP holds were invalidated, RIM still paid NTP $612.5M dollars to settle the case.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, NTP contends that AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint-Nextel – are selling e-mail services to customers that utilize "push" technologies whose basic concepts are protected by their patents. Again, while 2 of the 5 were declared invalid, a year and a half later, the patent re-examination process continues.

Another NTP infringement case against Palm was stayed in March, pending the outcome of the patent review. By law, patent filers are given grace periods in which to respond to official inquiries; and NTP has managed to eat up as much of that time as possible; so the delays cannot be attributed just to the Patent Office.

The basic dispute in this new case centers around whether the idea for wireless devices receiving messages directed at their users when those devices don’t directly request them, was novel at the time its patent was applied for. Although evidence in prior cases suggested that the principle was put in practice as early as 1970, NTP has been successful in quashing that evidence.

Since NTP won their settlement with RIM, they’ve been using it as leverage to obtain license agreements with other companies. So far, it’s worked with Nokia, Good and Visto. NTP has been waiving that stick at just about any and everyone, except Microsoft…at least I think. Why they haven’t gone after MS and DirectPush, I don’t know…unless it doesn’t violate their patents. I would like to hear from MS on this issue and see what they have to say. It might be interesting to hear from them and see if they are planning any changes to DirectPush to stem any action from NTP.

I know that I will be watching this case to see what happens with it. I don’t use any of the mail services from my wireless carrier. It’s also unlikely that I ever will, as long as I have an MS Exchange server to connect to. DirectPush gives me what I need…and it’s free.

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