On RIM and NTP

11 Jun ’05

The latest news on the breakdown of the settlement agreement, Simon Avery’s column in the Globe, says that the deal appears to have broken down over:

who will be able to license the disputed patents to other parties, and not necessarily RIM’s immediate partners and suppliers, but third parties who could end up buying the technology from either RIM or NTP. The parties “had significant differences in the scope of the non-exclusive licence grant and RIM’s ability to sublicense NTP’s patents and thereby deprive NTP of additional royalties,” a court filing by NTP on Thursday night said.

But RIM’s March 16 press release announcing the settlement stated that RIM could license the patents to anyone:

Under the terms of the resolution, RIM will have the right to grant sublicenses under the NTP patents to anyone for products or services that interface, interact or combine with RIM’s products, services or infrastructure.

and NIP approved the content of the press release (again, from the Globe article):

“We reached a binding agreement to basically negotiate a definitive agreement,” said Don Stout, who is also a patent lawyer in Arlington, Va. He said NTP approved the wording of RIM’s March 16 press release, but that approval did not constitute a final deal.

It certainly seems that when the settlement deal was signed, NTP thought it had a deal on that issue ….

There may be more to the dispute than that – NTP has said that after reaching the March agreement “it very quickly became evident that the parties had interpreted the vague term sheet in entirely different manners regarding virtually every significant provision,” but of course, that’s exactly what NTP would say if it wanted to extricate itself from an obligation on the scope of sublicensing – it has to convince a judge that the settlement deal should fail because vagueness and ambiguity is pervasive.

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