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NTP Sues Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile 83

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the up-to-their-old-tricks-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes to tell us that following in the wake of their patent suit against Research in Motion (RIM), NTP has filed suit against Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile for infringing on several patents. All of the patents in question relate to the delivery of email on mobile devices. "Five of the eight patents being used in the telco cases were the subject of NTP's 2001 patent suit against Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry. In November 2002, a jury found that RIM infringed upon NTP's patents. The case continued to make headlines until 2006, when RIM agreed to pay NTP a settlement of $612.5 million, nearly four years after RIM had first been found guilty of infringing on NTP's patents."
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NTP Sues Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:45PM (#20580445) Homepage Journal

    Because the BPAI may toss [wikipedia.org] our patents any time and then we'll have to run though court processes to try to reassert ownership of some of these dubious patents.

    I find the concept of leveraging open ideas, such as email, through some specific processes, abominable. It's not like these bastards invented email. So if I patent delivering a letter to someone's house by means of walking to my car, unlocking it, sitting in the driver seat, closing the door, putting on my safety belt, placing the key in the ignition, putting the car in gear, driving to the destination, reversing the previous steps, delivering the letter than repeating the whole previous process in reverse to return to home base and making note it has been delivered, I can sue anyone who does likewise. That's just stupid, but that's what's happening. Isn't it?

    • Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:50PM (#20580513) Journal
      This is why their crap should have been thrown out in the first place. They had no product, they had no real IP, and instead of being laughed out of court, they were allowed to rip off 600 million from a company that actually made it happen.

      And now? Now they have a nice deep warchest to go after other people for violating their crap patents. If the goal was to create a spurious patent litigation industry, mission accomplished. Way to go legal system, way to go.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "they were allowed to rip off 600 million from a company that actually made it happen."

        Excuse me, that's not what happened. RIM absolutely deserved to lose that $600M, through the sheer stupidity of their CEO. RIM GAVE that $600 Million away when they didn't have to.

        First, RIM hires an utterly incompetent lawfirm to represent them. The defining moment of this case was when this lawfirm authorized a bogus demo of supposedly prior art andpresented this as evidence, but got caught. That pissed off the Judge to
        • by Slippy. (42536)
          Both companies deserved to lose the case.

          NTP is a patent troll. Rim did it's own trolling when convenient, and liked to sue the competition. Rim also has an egotistical idiot for a CEO (Or did he resign or something this year due to an accounting restatement costing hundreds of millions?).

          It's just unfortunate that one company had to win. Worse that a patent troll got money.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by aaarrrgggh (9205)
          ...but the settlement let them get a share of any future lawsuit revenue. So... now if they get money out of the telcos, RIMM makes more money with no additional effort.
      • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuang@gm a i l . com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:24PM (#20580879) Homepage
        NTP actually created a product in the eighties that embodied push e-mail. As you can imagine from the time period, it was not very marketable. You're right they didn't market a modern product, however. In other words, they weren't competing head-to-head with RIM, and this really bothers people.

        I think that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. RIM had been walking around suing companies for having a miniature keyboard on their mobile devices. If you believe NTP, it was this blatant patent trolling that led NTP to file its own suit. (How would NTP explain this one?) Furthermore, RIM refused to settle for $10 million, and its courtroom behavior was horribly bad. However, once it was obvious that NTP could get injunctive relief and shut down all Blackberry service in the United States, RIM had no leverage at all and had to pay an extortionate amount to settle before they went bankrupt.
        • by lysse (516445)

          If you believe NTP, it was this blatant patent trolling that led NTP to file its own suit. (How would NTP explain this one?)


          Easy. Their patents were found valid in a fair trial, these companies have only just started introducing violating technologies, and they weren't polite enough to arrange protection^W cross-licensing deals first.
      • If the goal was to create a spurious patent litigation industry, mission accomplished. Way to go legal system, way to go.

        Folks, remember this next time you try to get out of jury duty.

    • by z-j-y (1056250)
      "So if I patent delivering a letter to someone's house by means of walking to my car..."

      I patented a similar thing for web service. Thanks for the reminder, I'm patenting the E-mail through conventional delivery right now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by icepick72 (834363)
      You actually reversed the process twice in your claim meaning you ended up delivering the letter to yourself after a long drive and finally parked at the destination the letter should have gone to, but hey if it's patentable then who am I to judge your process.
    • by billcopc (196330)
      If you patent that, I'm going to patent the singing dancing fat-nerd-in-tron-suit delivery system and order a complete "3rd party investigation" of your uniforms to make sure they're not infringingly similar to my tron suit.

      Fuck NTP... This is a one-time thing but I'm rooting for the Telecoms this time around. I hope they squash that puny little patent abuser like a grape!
    • by JoelKatz (46478)
      No, you can't patent a sequence of steps that does nothing more than produce the obvious sum of those steps. A sequence of known steps can only be patented if there's some "unexpected synergy" that allows the steps to accomplish something more than the obvious sum of their individual effects.

      However, my recollection was that RIM settled with NTP just a few weeks before their patents were declared invalid in another proceeding. I guess I must be missing some details or not up on things that happened after th
  • Whoops... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WebHostingGuy (825421) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:50PM (#20580507) Homepage Journal
    NTP might have had a hold over RIM because their business was depending on continued service, but NTP just picked a fight with multi-billion dollar businesses who are not going to roll over. This is just like SCO picking on IBM. When you fight a well funded opponent you better make damn sure you got the goods because their *multiple* law firms will eat your lunch.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) *

      NTP might have had a hold over RIM because their business was depending on continued service, but NTP just picked a fight with multi-billion dollar businesses who are not going to roll over. This is just like SCO picking on IBM. When you fight a well funded opponent you better make damn sure you got the goods because their *multiple* law firms will eat your lunch.

      The telcos will have it easier, too as there's no precedence, with RIM it was actually an out of court settlment. Still, IBM had a long, long

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721)

        The telcos will have it easier, too as there's no precedence, with RIM it was actually an out of court settlment. Still, IBM had a long, long battle with SCO. Depending upon how much NTP asks for they telcos may just write them a cheque with no ongoing revenue due NTP.

        It was a long fight, but how much work was it for IBM's lawyers?

        As to NTP, they have a bigger war chest, thanks to the patent extortion of RIM. Still, I'll wager the telcos don't back down.

    • Re:Whoops... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by drapeau06 (1010311) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:17PM (#20580797)
      RIM might not be as big as those US telcos, but they are big enough and surely fought pretty hard. Their most recent annual report showed revenue in the year of over 3 billion USD and their current market cap is well over 45 billion USD... should be enough to hire an expensive lawyer or two.
      • Re:Whoops... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lelitsch (31136) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:38PM (#20581025)
        There is a huge difference: RIM is a Canadian company. This simple fact limited them in three very important aspects:

        (1) Many US Courts are biased in favor of US litigants.
        (2) As a foreign company, RIM is severely limited in the amount of campaign contributions to US politicians.
        (3) As a Canadian company, RIM does not have a home town congressman and senator.

        All of these limitations are not unique to the US, they largely apply to US companies suing or getting sued overseas. See the different treatment Microsoft got in the US and the EU cases.
        • Your points look spot on to me. As a non-USAer, I expect that I look forward to the advent of truly international of private law more than do USAers.

          I did but point out that RIM is actually a large company; I'm sure we agree there.
      • RIM might not be as big as those US telcos, but they are big enough and surely fought pretty hard. Their most recent annual report showed revenue in the year of over 3 billion USD and their current market cap is well over 45 billion USD... should be enough to hire an expensive lawyer or two.

        Yes, but the companies NTP is going after now can hire an entire expensive law firm or two and a enough congressmen to get any laws they broke changed.

        Verizon (NYSE: VZ)
        2006 Revenue: US$88.1 billion
        Market Cap: US$1

    • Re:Whoops... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dunbal (464142) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:17PM (#20580803)
      their *multiple* law firms will eat your lunch.

            Not to mention their *multiple* politicians. Because after all, NO ONE lobbies as hard and as well as the telcos... Perhaps NTP is doing everyone a favor with this suicidal action. Maybe now finally a little balance and conscience will be brought to patent law. Or perhaps I'm dreaming again and what will really happen is that telcos and Washinton will find a really ingenous way to screw NTP AND the public.
      • by dbIII (701233)
        Suicide for the company perhaps but just another fattening step in the lifecycle of the rogue execs who will go on to cause damage somewhere else. Spectacular failure is rewarded with a massive bonus and is no barrier to the next plum job.
    • by jjohnson (62583)
      Of course, NTP now has a $612MM war chest with which to fight. The Telcos aren't going to approach this battle with an attitude of "they can't afford to sue us." Any Telco exec who says "we'll just outspend them on legal dollars" won't last long.
    • Re:Whoops... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trailer Trash (60756) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:29PM (#20580927) Homepage

      This is just like SCO picking on IBM.

      Unfortunately, it is vastly different in one key aspect: NTP has at least 10 times the cash to throw at this that SCO had. Also, NTP has no other money-losing departments to support, this is it.

      As I said back when RIM settled, the only thing worse than a patent troll is a patent troll with $600M in the bank. This is why.

      • Re:Whoops... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:22PM (#20581937)
        It's potentially different in another aspect. IBM was not just trying to win the case against SCO: they could have done that any number of times. What they were trying to was make an example of SCO, crushing them slowly and draining all the legal juice out, setting sufficient precedent that no-one in their right minds would ever do anything like that again. I don't see another SCO happening for a long, long time.

        I wouldn't mind seeing someone take the same road with NTP. IBM's executives correctly understood that appeasement rarely works. If you have the resources, winning a head-on battle is better in the long run than a buy-off, because you won't be a target when it's over.
  • by FauxReal (653820) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:58PM (#20580597) Homepage
    Maybe after getting hit by this large corporations will concede that some changes should be made; now that the shoe is on the other foot.
    • by Darth Liberus (874275) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:05PM (#20580659)
      A lot of large corporations are already begging to change the system. IIRC only the pharmaceutical industry still thinks the existing patent system is a good idea, and that's only because nobody has sued them for infringing on something like "method for separating a salt into its ionic components using a dihydrogen monoxide solvent".
      • Universities are against the current proposed changes. So are small inventor lobbyists. Ironically, even though the bill supports big business, the Republicans are against it for the most part.
  • NTP suing? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Crowhead (577505) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:04PM (#20580651)
    Is it that time again?
  • The RIM lawyers pissed off the judge so badly in that case that they're lucky the judge just approved the $600M settlement. I think his preference would have been the death penalty. By the time it got to the appeals level, the facts established in the trial phase were basically impossible to overcome. Presumably, current defendants will have learned. Although NTP has a >$600M war chest, so don't look for them to be pushovers.
    • It is standard at the appellate level for the finding of facts at the trial level to be nearly impossible to overcome.
      • by JoelKatz (46478)
        RIM made a lot of procedural errors early in the case that they could not overcome later. Perhaps they didn't have top-notch counsel or perhaps they weren't taking the lawsuit seriously. Unfortunately, that meant that later when the case looked really serious, they were fighting with one hand behind their back and the other one in a cast.
  • Is anyone familiar with the patents in question? Are they as general as "email on a handheld device via cellular network", or more specific? In other words, are they patenting an idea (algorithm, protocol, business method) or something tangible (the keyboard layout) ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Russ Nelson (33911)
      As far as I can tell, they've patented the idea of running an SMTP server on a mobile device, along with a minimal MTA that delivers the email into a mailbox, along with a MUA that immediately detects the presence of the email. It's another one of those patents where the obvious answer to a subtle question is somehow patentable. If you ask me, only the subtle answers should be patentable.
  • The US patent system to bea href ="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_Reform_Act_of_2005" improving. [wikipedia.org]

    Let's hope that we'll get a Software Patent Reform Act of 2008.
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @08:28PM (#20581479) Homepage Journal

    And to think, just a couple days ago they were announcing their 1000th member [slashdot.org]. Oh Network Time Protocol, how we love and hate you.

    Oh, wait.

    Is SMTP taken as a company name? I want to confuse geeks, too.

  • details, details (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CheeseTroll (696413) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @08:47PM (#20581623)
    AFAIK, most devices that aren't Blackberries or Good Tech devices *pull* their email, rather than having the messages pushed to them from the server. A small, but important difference.

    And just for extra semantic fun, just how mobile does a device need to be to qualify as "mobile"? Does a laptop running Thunderbird violate NTP's patent if you unplug it?
    • by PCM2 (4486)
      Good point. For those who don't recall, Good Technology has already licensed patents from NTP.

      Then again, the patents might be something as simple as "method for indicating that new email has arrived using a blinking red LED on a mobile device." Anyone less lazy than I am and care to look them up?
    • by Bodero (136806)
      Verizon's Wireless Sync [wsync.com] is indeed push, as noted on their homepage:

      Wireless Sync uses advanced "push" technology so you can stay informed up to-the-minute - as if you were in the office.

      It's actually really sweet - I only ever have to hook my Q up to my computer when I'm installing software through ActiveSync. But it looks like another company, Intellisync, develops it, so it's interesting that NTP is going after VZW.

  • by MULTICS_$MAN (692936) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:03PM (#20581789)
    These screwballs tried to hack a POCSAG pager to dump data to the AT&T Safari laptop in the late eighties or early nineties. When they failed to accomplish anything useful (because they were incompetent) AT&T went with the SkyTel Link, which was a superior pre-existing product which actually worked.

    Wireless networking carrying all network traffic was developed at the University of Hawaii and was a precursor of the ARPA internet with the transport layer being the "ether". Other wireless ARPA subnets (PRNET and SATNET) were integrated into the internet on August 27, 1976, with a message originating in a mobile station connected via packet radio ot the landline ARPANET.

    Information about the mobile network station originating that message has been preserved here [ed-thelen.org]. The first inter-network spanning message was, of course, an e-mail.

    The various packet and satnet Class A domains are defined back to at least RFC790 issued in 1981, The infamous TCP:99 "metagram relay" port doesn't seem to appear until RFC820 in 1986,

    Also of interest is Vint Cerf's RFC773 of October 1980.

    http://rfc.net/rfc0773.html [rfc.net]



    Now GET OFF MY LAWN, ya snotty little whippersnappers.
  • by florescent_beige (608235) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @11:12PM (#20582901) Journal
    I seem to remember this [engadget.com]. IIRC NTP won on a technicality, something like they got a ruling of infringement before RIM got the patents invalidated. So how are they back for more with the same patents?
  • by mooreti1 (1123363)
    What? They got RIM to settle so they think they can extort the telco's? Someone needs to tell NTP that when it comes to courtroom extortion no one can beat a US telco. They freakin' invented, perfected and institutionalized the practice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by anagama (611277)

      They freakin' invented, perfected and institutionalized the practice.

      You forgot "patented".
  • You go Networking Time Protocol!! All those NTP servers out there, working hard to keep time... it's about time you lawyered up!!

    --Ray

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis

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