NTP Sues Palm Over Wireless Patents

UPDATED: Less than a year after settling with Research in Motion (RIM) over patent infringement charges, NTP has trained its legal guns on Palm  on similar issues.

NTP, a Richmond, Va.-based owner of intellectual property patents concerning wireless e-mail and other technologies, filed suit alleging that the handheld devices and services Palm uses in its wireless e-mail systems infringe seven NTP patents in the United States.

Palm makes the Treo smartphones and Tungsten and TX handheld devices that are used to send e-mail, browse the Web and trigger other types of information exchange for communication and collaboration among consumers and corporate employees.

NTP said it seeks to prevent Palm from continuing to infringe on NTP’s patents, as well as monetary damages resulting from Palm’s alleged direct and indirect infringement of these patents.

“We have attempted — on numerous occasions — to resolve this issue with Palm without resorting to litigation that is both time consuming and costly,” NTP co-founder Donald Stout said in a statement.

“Despite our efforts, Palm has chosen to continue to unlawfully infringe on our patents. Though we would still prefer to resolve this issue with Palm in a negotiated license agreement that is fair and reasonable to both parties, we are filing action today as a last resort to protect our valuable intellectual property.”

Palm said in a statement that the seven patents NTP is alleging Palm infringed are being re-examined by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and have been rejected by the re-examiners as invalid.

Palm also said that the NTP patents disclose a pager-based e-mail service that has nothing in common with the mobile-computing devices invented by Palm.

The company seemed caught off guard by the suit, noting that it has been in occasional contact with NTP concerning a license to these patents but that talks ceased while NTP’s patents were under re-examination by the PTO.

“Palm is disappointed that, after many months of silence and repeated rejections of NTP’s claims by the PTO, NTP has chosen to sue on patents of doubtful validity,” the company said in a statement.

“Palm respects legitimate intellectual property rights, but will defend itself vigorously against the attempted misuse of the patent and judicial systems to extract monetary value for rights to patents that may ultimately have no value at all.”

NTP’s legal counsel, Hunton & Williams, filed suit against Palm on behalf of the patent purveyor in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

NTP’s case against Palm is a new enterprise, but things turned out well for NTP the last time it sued a major company for patent infringement.

After a protracted legal battle, RIM  agreed to pay NTP $612.5 million to be able to continue to offer customers a wireless e-mail service via its wildly popular Blackberry devices.

Had the court granted NTP an injunction against RIM, the results could have been devastating for RIM’s highly successful wireless communications business.

RIM isn’t out of the fire yet; rival Visto Corporation sued the Canadian company in May for patent infringement.

Visto, which incidentally licenses NTP patents, is also going after Good Technology and Microsoft Corp.  for patent infringement.

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