NTP Files Patent Suit Against Palm

Last March, patent holding company NTP extracted a $612.5 million settlement from BlackBerry maker Research in Motion following a multi-year patent battle which went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Now, NTP has turned its attention to Palm, Inc., filing a patent infringement lawsuit against the PDA and smartphone maker in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

NTP alleges that Palm’s products and services for handling wireless email on mobile devices directly and indirectly infringe on NTP’s patents—and if this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the very technology at the center of the dispute between NTP and RIM. NTP is seeking an injunction against Palm’s manufacture, use, sale, and/or importation into the U.S. of products or services which infringe on its patents; NTP is also seeking unspecified monetary damages.

“We have attempted—on numerous occasions—to resolve this issue with Palm without resorting to litigation that is both time consuming and costly,” said Donald E. Stout, NTP’s co-founder, in a statement. “Despite our efforts, Palm has chosen to continue to unlawfully infringe on our patents. Though we would still prefer to resolve this issue with Palm in a negotiated license agreement that is fair and reasonable to both parties, we are filing action today as a last resort to protect our valuable intellectual property.”

RIM’s settlement with NTP doesn’t qualify as a legal precedent which can be used against Palm. Instead, it just means RIM believed they were better off to give away well over half a billion dollars (on top of untold millions in legal fees) rather than take a chance a judge would rule they hadn’t infringed on NTP’s patents. Nonetheless, the fact that RIM settled with NTP after a viscous patent battle has the be weighing heavily in Palm’s thoughts.

The protracted battle with RIM also resulted in at least one NTP patent having been ruled invalid by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with several additional NTP patents also having received preliminary rejections when re-examined by the USPTO. Palm may be hoping that further examination by the USPTO will get their devices and services out from under NTP’s heel.

NTP’s patents regarding wireless email technology were originally granted to Thomas Campana in the early 1990s. Campana co-founded NTP, but died in 2004.

Update 07-Nov-2006: Palm has issued a press release responding to NTP’s infringement suit, terming the seven patents asserted in NTP’s suit “dubious” and noting they have been preliminarily rejected during re-examination by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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