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RIM lauds latest NTP patent rejection

Two down, one to go

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The US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has rejected all the claims contained in US patent number 6,067,451, one of the three patents held by NTP, and for which it successfully sued Research in Motion for intellectual property violation.

The patent contains two of nine claims that NTP said RIM had implemented in the BlackBerry push email system without its permission. The remaining claims are enshrined in NTP patents 6,317,592 and 5,436,960, and all nine have been ruled by the PTO as invalid for a number of reasons, most prominently because of prior art that was not taken into consideration when the Office first examined the patent applications in 2002.

Ruling the claims invalid and actually striking them from the record are two different processes. The claims have all been judged twice-over to be invalid, but this week's third and final ruling in the case of the 6,067,451 patent is the first Final Office Action (FOA) issued by the PTO.

NTP may appeal against the final verdict, but RIM yesterday said it believes the company won't succeed if it tries. The FOA comes with the weight of the unanimous verdict of three senior patent examiners.

Earlier this month, the PTO issued an Action Closing Prosecution notice on patent 6,317,592, which RIM described as the equivalent of an FOA. The PTO has yet to issue an FOA for the third patent, 5,436,960, which contains just one of the nine claims NTP said RIM had infringed.

In the past, NTP has said it needs just one claim to maintain its argument that RIM infringed its intellectual property, so the fight now hinges on that one remaining claim. It will take particular prominence at tomorrow's court hearing at which both companies will argue for and against a ban on BlackBerry in the US. ®

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