RIM nemesis slaps patent suit on Apple, Google, Microsoft...
NTP. They're baaaack
NTP, the patent-holding firm that tortured Research in Motion (RIM) throughout the middle of the past decade is at it again. This time, its targets are Apple, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, and Motorola.
"Use of NTP's intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair to NTP and its licensees," wrote NTP co-founder Donald Stout when revealing the suit on Friday. "Unfortunately, litigation is our only means of ensuring the inventor of the fundamental technology on which wireless email is based, Tom Campana, and NTP shareholders are recognized, and are fairly and reasonably compensated for their innovative work and investment."
Apparently, NTP has spent all of that $613m settlement they received from RIM back in 2006, are in need of a new cash infusion. Not that they've been dormant in the ensuing years — NTP sued Palm in 2006 and AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in 2007.
The Richmond, VirginIa company makes no bones about their reason for existence. The aforementioned announcement of the suit notes that: "NTP is best known for its long litigation and eventual settlement with Research in Motion (RIM), maker of BlackBerry wireless devices." NTP doesn't manufacture anything. It merely holds patents and sues companies.
The eight patents in question relate to wireless email delivery, and are among the 50 granted to NTP co-founder Tom Campana during his career. Unfortunately, The Reg can't ask Campana for his opinion of his company's latest lawsuit. He died in 2004.
Referring to a ruling by the US Patent and Trademark Office's Board of Patent Appeals in favor of NTP's patent rights, Stout noted: "In view of the USPTO Board's ruling, the debate over whether Mr. Campana was an originator in the field of wireless email is over. No patents in US history have received as much scrutiny as NTP's patents."
To those scrutinizers will now be added the legal teams of Apple, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, and Motorola. ®
What the hell is it with these zombie companies that keep coming back? There's SCO which has risen from the dead after an bodged headshot, Phorm which refuses to go down despite having all its limbs blasted off with a shotgun.. and now NTP which appears to have finished feasting on BRAAAAAAINS and is back for some more..
"technology on which wireless email is based"
Wireless what now? So their "innovation" is based on taking a phone with a connection to the internet, and realising that you could use that internet connection to send emails?
Don't Make It, Can't Keep It
Gawd, how I hate patent trolls, and the rife gamesmanship allowed by the USPTO...
I'm not against patents per se, but I am firmly of the belief that if you own a legitimate patent, you should have a finite period of time to start manufacturing, building, or creating a product based directly on that patent. At the end of that finite "fish-or-cut-bait" period, if you have not exercised your privileges in this regard, the patent is opened to the public domain.
Note that this "fish-or-cut-bait" period would be much shorter than for the current protection period, which to my mind would still be OK if you, as the patent owner, are actively pursuing manufacture of an item based on the patent.
I would also like to see a rule in which patents owned by public universities in the US would have to be sold at auction to the highest bidder within 2 to 5 years after the date the patent is officially awarded and assigned its number by the USPTO. The public university could, in the meantime, license the patent to recoup research/development costs, but when the patent is auctioned, the outstanding licenses would also be transferred to the winning bidder. The winning bidder must then commit to manufacturing a product based on the patent within the "fish-or-cut-bait" period outlined above, minus the time the patent was held by the university.
Private universities would be exempt from the forced-auction rule, if the university enters into a partnership with an outside company to manufacture and market a device based on the patent, and is the majority investor in said partnership.
General purpose business software (i.e., office applications) would not get invention patent protection. However, it could still qualify for copyright protection, and design patent protection (which covers the overall aesthetics of the software or individual elements of the software). Likewise, software which performs no tangible, physical function other than to manipulate data within the confines of a general purpose computer or computer network (such as email, web portal, or content delivery software) would also not be patentable.
Software which is used for the direct and native control of a physical device could conceivably be eligible for patent protection, but the nature of the "direct and native control" would have to be something tangible (like controlling a stepper motor which is an integral part of a machine).
Mathematical algorithms, including crypto algorithms (whether having entered into humanity's knowledge, or still awaiting discovery), being fundamental facts of nature, would not be patentable. Physical devices which use the algorithms as a native part of their functionality would, however, be eligible for patent protection.
Just my US$0.02...