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NTP Sues Six Major Tech Companies Over Wireless Email Patents 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-gusto dept.
rgraham writes "NTP, the same company that sued and eventually settled with RIM for $612.5 million over an IP dispute, has now sued Apple, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft and Motorola for infringement of wireless email patents. In the press release, NTP co-founder Donald Stout said, 'Use of NTP's intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair to NTP and its licensees. 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. We took the necessary action to protect our intellectual property.'"
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NTP Sues Six Major Tech Companies Over Wireless Email Patents

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  • Re:Hmmm..... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:26PM (#32854684)

    The $600M NTP got from RIM is a penitence compared to what these people can afford on legal.

    $600 million is a state of sorrow for sins or faults? What the hell does that mean? I believe you mean "pittance".

  • Re:Hmmm..... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:29PM (#32854738) Homepage Journal

    They may have been penitent, but I believe the word you are looking for is pittance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:32PM (#32854774)

    Mods, please read the back story. [slashdot.org]

  • by standbypowerguy (698339) on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:38PM (#32854834) Homepage

    wonton disregaurd

    Would that be fried wonton, or wonton soup? I'm not even going to guess on "disregaurd"

  • Re:Hmmm..... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gouru (1568313) on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:38PM (#32854836)

    They didn't forget. Nokia has a license from NTP so can't be included in this suit.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_J._Campana,_Jr. [slashdot.org]

    It looks like he wrote a bunch of patents regarding wireless data communications.

    He isn't even alive anymore which is funny that they mention his name and getting recognition

    I don't expect apple et.al to take this sitting down.

  • by Grond (15515) on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:43PM (#32854918) Homepage

    While it's true that NTP received a $612.5 million damages award from RIM, it's important to remember that NTP initially offered to settle with RIM for approximately $6 million. Remember too that RIM was found to have been a willful infringer, so its damages were increased and included attorney's fees. It also engaged in some courtroom shenanigans that likely contributed to the increased damages award. Another reason the eventual settlement was so high was that it was a full and final settlement (i.e., accounted for future use of the patented invention), not just a payment of damages that had already accrued. Finally, the litigation took 6 years, and in that time (2000-2006) the market for smart phones exploded, so RIM effectively racked up a lot of damages.

    The point is that a lot of the large settlement was RIM's fault: it chose to fight a losing battle, it was a willful infringer, and it behaved unethically in the courtroom. It's hard to have a lot of sympathy for them.

    In any event, the cost to end users was not that great. RIM has sold ~100 million BlackBerries. The cost of the settlement amounts to roughly $6 per unit, which is about a 2-5% royalty on the cost of each device. Compared to the cost of owning a smartphone (often well over $1000 per year when you factor in the voice and data plans), $6 isn't much.

    Many of you may now be saying, sure 2-5% isn't much, but it adds up fast if you have to settle with multiple patent owners, each of which wants their 2-5%. That's true, and a significant litigation reform effort is building behind allowing defendants in patent infringement suits to present evidence regarding the royalty rates for patents other than the ones in suit. Right now, the jury doesn't get to hear that you have to pay royalties on X other patents for each device sold and that those royalties are typically very small (e.g., pennies per unit or .1% of the cost or somesuch), so it's common for the jury to award comparatively high royalties. There is an effort to change that to allow juries to work with a much more complete picture of how royalty structures work in the real world rather than viewing only the patents in suit in isolation.

  • by dragisha (788) <dragisha AT m3w DOT org> on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:54PM (#32855056)

    http://news.cnet.com/Patent-office-issues-final-rejection-of-NTP-patent/2100-1047_3-6042049.html [cnet.com]

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a final rejection of one of the five patents at issue in NTP's long-running case against BlackBerry maker Research In Motion.

    The final rejection was posted on the Patent Office's Web site for the NTP-held patent, which covers a system for sending e-mails over a wireless network to a mobile device. The Patent Office has already issued nonfinal actions rejecting the claims in four out of the five NTP patents in question, but a final rejection is required before the appeals process can begin.

    All in 2006...

  • by Grond (15515) on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:55PM (#32855074) Homepage

    So, their patents can't possibly be valid. I'd look them up and show exactly why

    It's no secret which patents NTP owns [google.com], and the patents will necessarily be named in the complaint filed with the court, which like most federal court documents will be available on the PACER [pacer.gov] system for a nominal fee. I don't why you'd expect NTP to name the patents in its press release.

    Combining email with IP-over-GSM is simply combining two existing technologies, which isn't patent worthy, so they couldn't have patented that

    In fact, combining two existing technologies is patent worthy if the combination is new, useful, nonobvious, and adequately described in the patent application. So after you review that list of patents I linked, you'll need to show that the claimed inventions (i.e., the claims as read in light of the specification) are either fully described in a single piece of prior art (i.e., anticipated) or that there exist multiple pieces of prior art that can be combined to fully describe the invention (i.e., that the invention was obvious at the time). Good luck with that, since several massive companies (RIM included) have already had millions of dollars worth of incentives to find said prior art. By the way, most of the patents date back to around 1995, so your prior art will need to be from roughly around 1994. In one case your prior art will need to be from around 1990. What seems perfectly obvious now was probably not so obvious back then.

  • by capnchicken (664317) on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:56PM (#32855078)

    And in case the wiki somehow gets edited (never know!):

            * #6,317,592 - Omnidirectional and directional antenna assembly
            * #6,272,190 - System for wireless transmission and receiving of information and method of operation thereof
            * #6,198,783 - System for wireless serial transmission of encoded information
            * #6,067,451 - System and method of radio transmission between a radio transmitter and radio receiver
            * #5,819,172 - Electronic mail system with RF communications to mobile radios
            * #5,751,773 - System for wireless serial transmission of encoded information
            * #5,745,532 - System for wireless transmission and receiving of information and method of operation thereof
            * U.S. Patent 5,631,946 - System for transferring information from an RF receiver to a processor under control of a program stored by the processor and method of operation thereof
            * #5,625,670 - Electronic mail system with RF communications to mobile processor
            * #5,438,611 - Electronic mail system with RF communications to mobile processors originating from outside of the electronic mail system and method of operation thereof

  • by wurp (51446) on Friday July 09, 2010 @03:57PM (#32855108) Homepage

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_J._Campana,_Jr [wikipedia.org].

    Making your link link to the site it says, for those too lazy to cut-n-paste.

  • Re:Hmmm..... (Score:2, Informative)

    by astro (20275) on Friday July 09, 2010 @04:02PM (#32855170) Homepage

    Nokia already licenses from NTP.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTP,_Inc.#Patent_licenses

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday July 09, 2010 @04:04PM (#32855194) Homepage Journal

    My understanding was the the patent was held invalid but only after RIM settled out of court - and since that was a voluntary surrender on their part it's tough bastard titty for RIM[1]. But there have been so many of these retarded cases that I could well be confused.

    [1] serves them right, the soft bastards.

  • by Nemesisghost (1720424) on Friday July 09, 2010 @04:32PM (#32855492)
    Actually looking at his wiki page [wikipedia.org], what he actually 'invented' is a way for wireless devices to have an "always on" email connection via Push Email [wikipedia.org]. Unlike traditional email, in which the email client polls the server to see if there are any new messages, push email works the opposite. Since a smart phone has a steady network address, the email client can send new mail notifications directly to the phone and let the phone decide to download them or not. It was the application of this idea to wireless technology that NTP patented.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday July 09, 2010 @04:35PM (#32855534) Journal

    As someone else mentioned, look at UUCP, which on top of allowing copying of files across telephone lines and similar networks, was used for many years to push email and newsfeeds. I had my own UUCP account, and some of my earliest posts to Usenet are archived on Google Groups and still show the old bang paths. Push email has been around a loooong time.

  • by robp (64931) on Friday July 09, 2010 @04:50PM (#32855680) Homepage

    Thanks for the attention. One of NTP's PR folks just e-mailed a copy of the company's complaint against Google. There's a copy embedded after the jump of my post [washingtonpost.com], and you can also read or download the PDF via Scribd [scribd.com]. I encourage you all to give that document a careful read, then look through the patents claimed (I've linked to the relevant USPTO pages in the post as well).

    - RP

  • In particular 5,436,960 [uspto.gov], and I note that something like half of the paragraphs in it, though numbered differently, all say:

    the identification number is added to the originated information by matching an identification of the at least one of the plurality of destination processors with a stored identification of the at least one of the plurality of destination processors and adding an identification number stored with the matched identification of the at least one of the plurality of destination processors to the originated information as the identification number.

    Which sounds like a particulary contorted way to describe a router taking the data out of a packet routed to it, and routing it to another system based on the destination address.

    Then, in the Description he lies:

    Electronic mail services are basically a wire line-to-wire line, point-to-point type of communications. Electronic mail, similar to facsimile transmissions, provides a one-way message. A recipient typically does not have to interact with the message. Electronic mail, unlike facsimile, is a non-real-time message transmission architecture.

    Email has always had a send-to-multiple recipients functionality, and has always used store-and-forward servers over packet networks and/or instances dial-up lines. It is not "point-to-point" except rarely when sending to the same host where the mail originates.

    Basically, when you realize that an Ethernet is an RF frequency network, this patent describes email being forwarded by an outgoing mail server and being routed to one or more destinations. Pretty much what SMTP over TCP/IP had been doing for over 20 years at the time this lame-o patent was filed. I can't wait to see what the other ones look like (shudder).

  • Re:NTP (Score:2, Informative)

    by bdraschk (664148) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @02:50AM (#32858632)

    Only if you're dyslexic.

When you don't know what you are doing, do it neatly.

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