NEW YORK (
) --Remember when a patent lawsuit against
Research In Motion
threatened a BlackBerry email blackout? Well, NTP is back for an even bigger cut of the action.
Virginia-based patent holder
in 2006, is now set to take on the entire wireless sector.
NTP opened its latest wave of legal challenges Thursday against six phone makers
and LG and it expects its case against telcos
to proceed later this year.
Asserting that its wireless email technology patents are being used without authorization by phone makers, NTP filed patent infringement lawsuits against Apple, Motorola, HTC, Microsoft, Google and LG in a Virginia federal court Thursday.
"The case centers the same group of patents involved in the RIM case," said NTP chief Donald Stout. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office opened a reexamination of the patent claims in the RIM case and has so far found that three of the 16 patents held up, says Stout. NTP appealed and Stouts says he expects the reexamination stage to end in August.
"I'm optimistic that we will settle the cases," says Stout.
NTP had brought patent infringement cases against
, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint three years ago and those cases were stayed pending the findings of the patent office's reexamination. Stout now says that with at least three patents upheld, he expects the legal and or settlement process to resume.
Critics call NTP a patent litigator -- not a technology developer. NTP fits part of that description since it is a law firm that holds the wireless email patents developed by former AT&T engineer Tom Campana.
But Stout defends his business, saying much of the sector is powered by technology licensed by companies like
. The difference is that his business partner Campana, who died in 2004, had tried to build a tech company.
NTP's patent strength was validated in 2006 after it sued RIM over illegal use of its wireless email technology. On the brink of a court-ordered network shutdown, RIM agreed to settle with NTP for $612 million, ending years of legal battles and sending RIM shares soaring 12% on the day of the settlement.
Industry observers don't expect similar RIM type scenarios for NTP, and some say it is quite possible that a mediation process may be the preferred route for licensing settlements.
RIM's settlement earned it a perpetual license for NTP's email technology, and
has a license agreement with NTP.
--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.