NYT – All NTP Patents Likely to be Rejected by USPTO

20 Dec ’05

Ian Austen reports that the USPTO has informed RIM and NTP that the non-final office action is likely to result in a rejection of all remaining NTP patents. Don Stout’s choice of language seems decidedly less confident now:

Mr. Balsillie said that his lawyers believed that any hearings for an injunction halting BlackBerry service will be immediately put on hold if the patent office makes its rejections final. In R.I.M.’s view, NTP will be able to move forward only if it is able to regain its patents through appeals, a process that could take years.

Mr. Stout and lawyers for NTP said that the two processes were wholly separate, and that an injunction against R.I.M. remained a possibility. “We’re not going to go away silently,” Mr. Stout said. “Unless the case is settled, it keeps on going.”

Sidenote: James Surowiecki has a short piece on RIM-NTP in the New Yorker this week. Gist:

Since it was introduced, in 1999, the BlackBerry, a handheld device that provides wireless e-mail access, has become not only an enormous financial success—nearly three million Americans now use one—but also the quintessential symbol of today’s connected world. Last month, though, it became clear that a patent-infringement case could force the BlackBerry’s manufacturers, a Canadian company called Research in Motion, to kill the service in the United States by the end of the year. Then the BlackBerry will become the quintessential symbol of something else: a patent system that is out of control.

The BlackBerry mess is a case in point: in the past year, the Patent Office has reëxamined N.T.P.’s eight patents, and issued preliminary rulings declaring them, and the nineteen hundred claims they contain, invalid. Until those patents are formally invalidated, however, R.I.M. is still on the hook, so it may end up paying for infringements that it never committed. Now, that’s innovative.

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