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Patent holder sues Apple, Google, others over wireless e-mail

post #1 of 59
Thread Starter 
A patent holder that won $612.5 million from Research in Motion in 2006 over the use of e-mail in smartphones has now taken aim at Apple, Google, Microsoft and other companies in a new suit.

NTP Incorporated issued a press release on Friday revealing its lawsuit against Apple, Google, HTC, LG Electronics, Microsoft and Motorola. The complaint was filed in a U.S. District Court in Eastern Virginia, and covers eight patents related to the delivery of e-mail over wireless communications systems.

NTP was founded by Tom Campana, who the company claims is "the inventor of wireless e-mail." The release noted that each of the defendants in the case makes wireless handheld devices or software applications to deliver e-mail across wireless communications systems.

"Use of NTP's intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair to NTP and its licensees," NTP co-founder Donald E. Stout said. "Unfortunately, litigation is our only means of ensuring the inventor of the fundamental technology on which wireless e-mail 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."

NTP reached a settlement with RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry line of smartphones, in 2006. That suit covered the same eight patents that are at issue with the complaint announced on Friday.

NTP noted that in 2009, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Board of Patent Appeals ruled that 67 of NTP's patent claims in four patents were valid, including three claims that RIM was found to have infringed. The USPTO has rejected other patent claims by NTP, which the company has appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

"The filing of suit today is necessary to ensure that those companies who are infringing NTP's patents will be required to pay a licensing fee," Stout said. "In view of the USPTO Board's ruling, the debate over whether Mr. Campana was an originator in the field of wireless e-mail is over. No patents in U.S. history have received as much scrutiny as NTP's patents."

In 2007, NTP took aim at the largest wireless carriers in the U.S., filing lawsuits with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. And in 2006, NTP also sued Palm over the use of e-mail on wireless devices.
post #2 of 59
Submarine Troll in sonar!!!
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post #3 of 59
Idiocy has no limits.

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post #4 of 59
This is so screwed-up. Patents shouldn't be valid unless you actually implemented your inventions...
post #5 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleSwitcher View Post

This is so screwed-up. Patents shouldn't be valid unless you actually implemented your inventions...

I was just going to say something to that effect... I feel like anyone from the dawn of email could have surmised that someday in the far distant future you would be able to hold it in your hand and take it with you...
post #6 of 59
Patents for trivial things. That's like having a patent for a toothpick. Oh my cuss ...

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post #7 of 59
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inventi...on-obviousness

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_art

I have not seen the patents in question - but it would seem to me that unless you talking about very specific protocols and the underlying hardware that is involved in actually moving the bits and ensuring they end up at the target location as intended - then it would seem to me that as already mentioned - that the day that both email of any kind and wireless communication of any kind were both available that hundreds of people must have thought - gee it would be neat to combine those two and get my email wirelessly.

I suspect that the patent itself is a bit more involved than simply a description of transmitting email without wires. Even so - in my opinion a patent should not be about a generic process but a specific implementation - whether it be the overall design of the user interface or the process by which it is accomplished. Also, if another company independently comes up with something that is effectively the same while relying on substantially different underlying technology and or user interface etc then in order to win a patent dispute you would have to prove that all or parts of your specific implementation were copied.

Did we not learn back in the days of Mac OS vs Windows that you can make something that is generally similar without that being an infringement?

I am not so sure about the needing to actually build a solution to protect your patent - if you come up with a truly novel idea in sufficient detail - you should be protected from having someone with greater resources from profiting off your design. However, if your idea is to general or too vague and someone else arrives at a similar end result then that is a different story.

How many patents are there on mouse traps? Don't they all do essentially the same thing? (with perhaps a distinction between kill and no-kill traps). So why don't we have patent infringement law suits every week over mouse traps? Because each one is different - why the goal and even some design features are the same that is a natural consequence of solving the same problem.

Now if design a mouse trap and someone else comes along and takes my design and changes the wood part to plastic and the plastic part to metal - but is otherwise an identical copy of my design - that is infringement. however, if their design uses two springs instead of one and a different trigger release mechanism then it is most likely not infringement.
post #8 of 59
Admittedly I have to do some research, but I wonder if the 3 patent claims RIM settled had to do with HOW the email was managed and delivered (ie, goes to a central server someplace and then is delivered to the device). Whereas the iPhone is simply a device on a wireless internet connection and the email is delivered just like it is for any computer...an obvious use of two already known technologies (email and wireless internet). There are no special techniques used like RIM does.
post #9 of 59
NTP is a company of lawyers who produce nothing but patent lawsuits. That is their single source of income. I don't think they even really try to get royalty deals. They first look for suits and settlements. RIM fought them for years and it looked for a while like RIM might win.

During the trial, RIM was able to set up and show an old system that demonstrated prior art for wireless message from some 1980's software system. Unfortunately for RIM, the NTP lawyers said a last modified date on one of the applications folders was from after 1990 and was therefore a 'modified' version of the 1980's software. The really unfortunate part of this was that the legacy system was legit and was an example of prior art which would have immediately torpedoed most of NTP's case. The date on the folder was modified because the licensing component of the software automatically updates some files. But, the judge was so enraged by the seeming fraud on RIMs part (there was none) he ruled the demonstration was a deception and threw it out and refused to listen to RIMs explanation (the judge actually walked out of the court when he heard NTP's claims of deception). Soon after, RIM settled.

The system in question was known System for Automated Messages by TekNow. I wonder, if the TekNow people could get their old system working, unmodified, could Apple, et all, get the same demonstration accepted (with prior explanation about the file dates) in court. If so, it would completely destroy NTPs case. David Keeney, who invented the TekNow software, should sue NTP, if he had any patents on his work. $612.5 million sounds like a good starting figure for him.

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post #10 of 59
Quote:
Unfortunately, litigation is our only means of ensuring the inventor of the fundamental technology on which wireless e-mail is based, Tom Campana, and NTP shareholders are recognized, and are fairly and reasonably compensated for their innovative work and investment.

I suppose they meant the estate of Tom Campana, since you know, he's dead. I guess they are trying to make their PR statement sound more personal and human by making it sound like Tom is being ripped off. I am pretty sure Tom, himself, doesn't care right now.

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post #11 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Povilas View Post

Idiocy has no limits.

Of the patent system, right? Nothing idiotic about suing if you already won $600m.
post #12 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleSwitcher View Post

This is so screwed-up. Patents shouldn't be valid unless you actually implemented your inventions...

While this specific case is a complete crock, I can't agree with that as a general statement. How does that work for the little guy who invents something but doesn't have the resources to create a product? You think people with deeper pockets should be able to just come along and steal his idea just because they can better afford to implement it? People should be able to invent things and then license those patents to companies that are interested.

But that's not the problem here. The problem in this case is that patents aren't supposed to be awarded to obvious ideas, and I can't think of what is more obvious than taking things that exist on a computer and say "that, but on a phone".

Hopefully these companies will stand up to this and fight it until they get a win instead of settling.
post #13 of 59
You could bet anything if Apple was sitting on a patent and never implemented the technology and someone infringed on it they would sue.
post #14 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by jouster View Post

Of the patent system, right? Nothing idiotic about suing if you already won $600m.

Good point But the larger point is that the idea of a company that exists for the sole purpose of holding patents is slightly dubious. If you are an inventor you should be fairly compensated for your work but in my opinion (not worth very much at all - now if only I could patent it... ), there is a point where something becomes ubiquitous and patents should no longer apply.
post #15 of 59
Easy thing for anybody with sounded mind (patent holder/inventor in this case) to do is publish their inventions to the public (and not just by bloggers). That way when they sue it is much more honest and people will respect it. NOT sitting on them and hoping one day some company would trample on it and sue the throat of them. See, this is the state of mind nowadays and lawyers, being the master of word manipulations, thrive on it.
post #16 of 59
Quote:
"Use of NTP's intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair to NTP and its licensees,"

Does anyone else find this to be an incredibly stupid statement? It's so clumsily worded--it reminds me of The Dukes of Hazzard. "Well gee, pa...I'm a fixin to Apple Computers!"

The patent issue:

As I've mentioned before, my brother was a U.S. Patent Examiner for several years. His expertise was in this area. I've learned some things in talking with him. First, general patents for "wireless e-mail" or something similar are not issued. A patent must be far more specific. It would have describe, as one poster mentioned, the specific way the information was transmitted, what the underlying technology was, etc.

Secondly, it's true that patents are not granted for "minor and obvious variations" of existing products. Someone cannot invent a blue iPhone and claim it as his own, for example.

Third: Patents are actually very difficult to get. The examiners pretty much do everything possible to disqualify the patent. The application is usually denied at least once before the patent is granted. They spend most of their time researching previous patents. They then focus on the language of the proposal, which often has dozens of reasons it's rejected the first or second time.

I have no idea of the validity of these patents, but $600 million in previous settlements? That's no joke. There must be something very big there, otherwise RIM would do what Apple does every day: Tell the plaintiffs to go screw. I don't know about this lawsuit...but I suspect the fact that NTP already won a judgement will actually hurt their case. Apple has basically taken its desktop e-mail program and adapted it for mobile use. My gut reaction (and that's all I have here) is that they are using something very different than RIM was in 2000, when the original suit was brought.
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post #17 of 59
Back in the day, I was amazed RIM lost on this one; there was significant prior art, and RIM had a vested interest in it beyond the price of settling.

Apple is in an even stronger position... But NTP has plenty of cash to spend on litigation.

As for Patent Reform, Apple lives by the sword on things that shouldn't be patentable, so losing a billion is just rewards. (This despite me being a shareholder...)
post #18 of 59
as long as i continue to get email on my iphone, i could care less...


so...does this claim also cover webmail on a phone? That would be silly...
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post #19 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by minderbinder View Post

While this specific case is a complete crock, I can't agree with that as a general statement. How does that work for the little guy who invents something but doesn't have the resources to create a product? You think people with deeper pockets should be able to just come along and steal his idea just because they can better afford to implement it? People should be able to invent things and then license those patents to companies that are interested.

But that's not the problem here. The problem in this case is that patents aren't supposed to be awarded to obvious ideas, and I can't think of what is more obvious than taking things that exist on a computer and say "that, but on a phone".

Hopefully these companies will stand up to this and fight it until they get a win instead of settling.

Your first point is absolutely correct. The patent system is a great enabler for small inventors to benefit from their invention - even if they don't have the ability to compete with GM or GE or Apple. It is designed to protect the intellectual property even if you're not making a product -- and that's the way it should be. If it required you to be making a product, let's say you invent a new process for making integrated circuits and it works well in the lab. But you can't afford $1,000,000,000 to build an IC fab. Should that mean you don't benefit from the invention?

The second point indicates a major misunderstanding of the patent system. You don't patent wireless email or multitouch. You patent a specific implementation. While the patent system has some major flaws, they do not generally allow something as broad and unpatentable as 'wireless email'. In reality, the patent almost certainly covers one specific implementation of how you do email wirelessly.

That's not to say that the specific implementation is patentable - I haven't read the patents and don't know the technology well enough to say even if I had. But much of the complaining here (and elsewhere) is uninformed ranting. As soon as someone says "you can't patent wireless email", you know that they don't know what they're talking about. No one is trying to do that.
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post #20 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Good point But the larger point is that the idea of a company that exists for the sole purpose of holding patents is slightly dubious. If you are an inventor you should be fairly compensated for your work but in my opinion (not worth very much at all - now if only I could patent it... ), there is a point where something becomes ubiquitous and patents should no longer apply.

I would say VERY dubious (not slightly) ... and why didn't this company sue Apple and others a few years ago along with RIM?
post #21 of 59
I'd doubt this lawsuit would get that far.

After all RIM is a Canadian company that was sued in US courts and often foreign firms do not fare well in them. Ask the Canadian softwood lumber industry...
post #22 of 59
I'd have to read the patents, but if none of them cover a simple wireless internet connection, then the email over wireless parts are all invalid.

Since an internet connection is all you need to get email (port 25, right?), then there should be nothing patentable about using a client to access email wirelessly.

Unless they patented having an email client on a phone or non-PC-like device. Although one could easily argue that the iPhone is simply a portable computer with a touch screen and the phone is just an app.
post #23 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickwalker View Post

I'd doubt this lawsuit would get that far.

After all RIM is a Canadian company that was sued in US courts and often foreign firms do not fare well in them. Ask the Canadian softwood lumber industry...

Wrong. That's not the way patents work.

After a company has received a large judgment in a patent case, it's almost impossible to lose future cases. You can be 100% sure that Apple's lawyers are discussing "how much are we going to have to pay to settle this without going to court?"

If Apple has a smoking gun that can absolutely prove prior art, it is remotely possible to kill a patent after they've received a large judgment, but if they had such a smoking gun, it would probably have come out earlier. It would have been in Apple's best interest to bring it forward for RIM.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post

I'd have to read the patents, but if none of them cover a simple wireless internet connection, then the email over wireless parts are all invalid.

Suggestion:
First read and understand the patents and THEN tell us whether you think they're valid (and why).
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post #24 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

Admittedly I have to do some research, but I wonder if the 3 patent claims RIM settled had to do with HOW the email was managed and delivered (ie, goes to a central server someplace and then is delivered to the device). Whereas the iPhone is simply a device on a wireless internet connection and the email is delivered just like it is for any computer...an obvious use of two already known technologies (email and wireless internet). There are no special techniques used like RIM does.

Well, push may be the issue? The phone checking for email or a server pushing the phone the email are different. However, computers do that too wirelessly.

Having the phone check for emails somewhere though is exactly the same as a computer doing it, so I can't see how they hold a patent for that, or why they aren't suing every single computer manufacturer that has wifi built into their machines.

Then again, I haven't looked at the patents or done any research on it. Obviously RIM had to pay for a reason, dumb or not.
post #25 of 59
Almost everyone gets their email wirelessly if they have a wireless router in their home or office.

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post #26 of 59
i recall sending and receiving email wirelessly on my newton messagepad wirelessly (ir port) in the late 80's, how old is ntp's stuff?
post #27 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBFromOZ View Post

i recall sending and receiving email wirelessly on my newton messagepad wirelessly (ir port) in the late 80's, how old is ntp's stuff?

Are you sure? It's been a lot of years, but I don't recall my 2100 having wireless networking.

Edit: I guess if you had a PCMCIA card.

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post #28 of 59
This is why we can't have nice things
post #29 of 59
I have a general patent for "Thing that does stuff"
So I'm suing all of you!!!
post #30 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post

in my opinion a patent should not be about a generic process but a specific implementation - whether it be the overall design of the user interface or the process by which it is accomplished.

Unlike the early days of the systems, in the last 10-20 years, the courts, and even the patent office, are going the same way.

Apple has their old systems to work off of since iOS is an extension of Mac OS and probably uses 90% of the same protocols. So 'prior art' is likely applicable

The other companies might not be so lucky.

Quote:

Did we not learn back in the days of Mac OS vs Windows that you can make something that is generally similar without that being an infringement?

Bad example since there is decent proof that Windows was copied from Mac OS. At least that first go around.

I think a better example is email reading programs. Inbox, Outbox, Sent, Draft, Deleted etc. There really aren't any other terms for this unless you want to go way way out there. THey are the natural terms. So they should not be patentable. Having a 'window' of folders, another of the choices in a selected window and then one of the actual contents, also rather natural and should not be patentable. The algorithms you use for filtering, especially junk mail, heck yeah that probably has a lot of variations and should be protected.

Quote:

I am not so sure about the needing to actually build a solution to protect your patent

I have to disagree. Even for a 'novel' idea. Perhaps if something is truly unique a limited patent of say 3 years for that person to be 'first to market' on a solution is fine. At least to the point of having the solution drawn out in detail (but not necessarily ready for release). But after that, it's all about the how and not the what.

Otherwise you just end up right back in these kinds of waters. With folks patenting 'being able to read email on a phone' and claiming that someone stole the 'idea'

Quote:
How many patents are there on mouse traps? Don't they all do essentially the same thing?

on the idea of a trap to catch a mouse. Zero
on the actual way that a particular trap works. probably one for each way. as it should be

Quote:
Now if design a mouse trap and someone else comes along and takes my design and changes the wood part to plastic and the plastic part to metal - but is otherwise an identical copy of my design - that is infringement. however, if their design uses two springs instead of one and a different trigger release mechanism then it is most likely not infringement.

As it should be. However with computer patents, etc, that distinction is not made. Or wasn't early on (it seems to be getting better as the whole digital realm matures) People were allowed to have vague patents that are basically just the idea. And to sue over it. And sometimes, because they are vague ideas moreso than the method to make it happen, you get two or more groups with very similar but valid patents suing each other.

And of course when one of the parties is Apple, we hear all about it. Cause Apple is the top hit fodder after those dumb Twilight kids.

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post #31 of 59
Aside from all this hot air and speculation, has anyone bothered to become familiar with the RIM case and the language of this claim? Otherwise these comments are a waste of time.

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post #32 of 59
lc630 with tv tuner card, and ir port in the messagepad from memory
post #33 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulkas View Post

NTP is a company of lawyers who produce nothing but patent lawsuits. ...

During the trial, RIM was able to set up and show an old system that demonstrated prior art for wireless message from some 1980's software system. Unfortunately for RIM, the NTP lawyers said a last modified date on one of the applications folders was from after 1990 and was therefore a 'modified' version of the 1980's software. The really unfortunate part of this was that the legacy system was legit and was an example of prior art which would have immediately torpedoed most of NTP's case. The date on the folder was modified because the licensing component of the software automatically updates some files. But, the judge was so enraged by the seeming fraud on RIMs part (there was none) he ruled the demonstration was a deception and threw it out and refused to listen to RIMs explanation (the judge actually walked out of the court when he heard NTP's claims of deception). Soon after, RIM settled.

The system in question was known System for Automated Messages by TekNow. I wonder, if the TekNow people could get their old system working, unmodified, could Apple, et all, get the same demonstration accepted (with prior explanation about the file dates) in court. If so, it would completely destroy NTPs case. David Keeney, who invented the TekNow software, should sue NTP, if he had any patents on his work. $612.5 million sounds like a good starting figure for him.

Excellent, informative post -- not usually seen on AI's lawsuit threads) Googling around, it seems that RIM (separate from the lawsuit) tried to invalidate NTP's patents. As far as I can find, the final outcome there is not yet determined.
post #34 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Wrong. That's not the way patents work.

After a company has received a large judgment in a patent case, it's almost impossible to lose future cases. You can be 100% sure that Apple's lawyers are discussing "how much are we going to have to pay to settle this without going to court?"

If Apple has a smoking gun that can absolutely prove prior art, it is remotely possible to kill a patent after they've received a large judgment, but if they had such a smoking gun, it would probably have come out earlier. It would have been in Apple's best interest to bring it forward for RIM.

You are assuming that Apple and RIM implement email access the same on their devices. I believe this is incorrect. I believe the iPhone (and all other smartphones other than RIMs) allow you to access your email by directly contacting your email server. RIM, on the other hand, goes through an intermediary server run by RIM. This is why as recently as last December, a failure on RIM's part caused delays in sending/receiving emails on their devices. This couldn't happen on an iPhone (short of a OS update that breaks your email) because Apple plays no hand in the delivery of your email.

If the patents in question cover a technique where there is such an intermediary server, it could apply to RIM devices by not to Apple's devices which, as many have pointed out, are really no different than checking email on your home computer.

It could simply be that these guys are trying to leverage the fact that they won the RIM case to convince a judge or jury that there patent applies to all these other devices when if fact it may not.

EDIT: Link to story about the RIM email failure: http://www.crn.com/networking/222002584
EDIT2: Link on how Blackberry email works: http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4702806...lackberry.html
post #35 of 59
Funny how these companies like this decide to sue several years later ... well after technologies like wireless email have been around... If I were the judge, I would throw out this suit. If you're gonna sue, you do it at the FIRST time your patent is violated... that is, if there's a patent violation at all. You don't wait several years later!!
post #36 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

Admittedly I have to do some research, but I wonder if the 3 patent claims RIM settled had to do with HOW the email was managed and delivered (ie, goes to a central server someplace and then is delivered to the device). Whereas the iPhone is simply a device on a wireless internet connection and the email is delivered just like it is for any computer...an obvious use of two already known technologies (email and wireless internet). There are no special techniques used like RIM does.

You're forgetting that Apple has push email with MobileMe.
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post #37 of 59
I hold a patent for holding wireless devices (including smartphones) right.

I will sue apple
post #38 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

You're forgetting that Apple has push email with MobileMe.

So? Read my link above about how Blackberry email works. Even with Apple's push email, that's still just a connection between you and your email provider (just that in that case Apple is your email provider). RIM aggregates your email from all of your providers, compresses it, and then sends it to your Blackberry. All of those things would make sense when the patents were filed. Emails were mostly text and bandwidth was more scarce and expensive. Even with Apple's push, it's still your email client getting your messages from your mail provider. No intermediary server making periodic checks for new email, no reformatting/compressing, etc.

Until someone can examine the patents in question (I have not yet), I see no reason to assume that they apply to the iPhone simply because they applied to RIM.
post #39 of 59
holy sh**. $617Mil sure is alota cheez!

Seriously, if they won with RIM, they have a good chance against the others.
post #40 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by macguysea View Post

Funny how these companies like this decide to sue several years later ... well after technologies like wireless email have been around... If I were the judge, I would throw out this suit. If you're gonna sue, you do it at the FIRST time your patent is violated... that is, if there's a patent violation at all. You don't wait several years later!!

First of all, why would they sue BEFORE the money is made?

Secondly, things like this can take years, so keep that in mind.

and Finally, if you were a judge and you threw this out simply because of the time frame, you'd be disbarred or de-cloaked or whatever it is when a judge is fired .
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