Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Another twist in NTP v. RIM on blackberries?

from http://rcrnews.com/news.cms?newsId=21112:

On Dec. 30, 2004, a company called Computer Leasco Inc. filed a lawsuit against NTP and added a new twist to the drama. The company claims NTP conducted a "wide-scale, fraudulent scheme" to steal CLI's patents-the same patents NTP claims RIM's BlackBerry violates.

CLI said it leased computer equipment to a company called Telefind in 1998. Telefind eventually went under, and CLI successfully sued the company for $3.83 million. However, CLI claims that Telefind's chief engineer, Thomas Campana, covertly managed to transfer several key patents from Telefind into another holding company called ESA Telecommunications Inc. ESA eventually became NTP. CLI is suing to get a hold of those patents, which cover technology for wireless e-mail systems.

Interestingly, an appeals court ruled in 1994 that the patents in question do in fact belong to NTP, but CLI claims it has been swindled.

NTP said it has no comment on the lawsuit. RIM generally does not comment on its legal issues.

In the following, note "beneficial use" is a legal term of art in 35 USC 271.

from an article by Ian Austen in the NYTimes

"One of the fundamental things about patent laws is that there are territorial limitations to them," said Henry Bunsow, a lawyer representing RIM Since the BlackBerry handheld units are effectively useless without the relay server in Canada, Bunsow contends that its entire system does not infringe on NTP's patents.

So far, the courts have shared the view of Donald Stout, a co-founder of NTP and the company's legal counsel.

"We don't care if one part of the system is run in Canada," Stout said. "The beneficial use of the system is in the United States."
Bunsow argued that the nature of the NTP patents makes them impossible to uphold. The NTP patents stem largely from work that Thomas Campana Jr. did for Telefind, a now-defunct pager company that was able to send a crude form of e-mail to subscribers during the last 1980s and early 1990s. Campana, who died last year, held about 50 patents and long used Stout as his intellectual property lawyer.

In the case of the wireless e-mail patents, Bunsow said they cover the system as a whole rather than individual components.

"They could have parsed the applications," Bunsow said. "But it's an entire system patent so that they could capture all the revenues in the system." As a result, Bunsow said, if any key part of that system is outside of the United States, the NTP patent does not apply. <--


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