NTP Won a $612 Million Lawsuit Four Years Ago Against RIM: Now Going for Everyone Else

Research In Motion’s former patent nemesis—NTP—has now launch a broad array of lawsuits against Apple, Google, HTC, Microsoft, LG and Motorola over claims of patent infringement.  The lawsuit RIM settled with NTP for $600 million back in 2006 concerns a portfolio of patents relating to wireless email. NTP has been criticized for being a patent troll—a company that specializes in developing broad patents in high-tech industries and simply waiting for other companies to develop working systems to sue them for ‘patent infringement’—but maintains that even though it has never commercialized a wireless email system, it holds the legal rights to it. Ron Epstein, counsel to NTP, has been quoted as saying “Every infringer is now on notice. They are going to have to deal with this instead of trying to wait it out.” NTP’s patents expire in 2012.

This is a classic example of what is wrong in high-tech industries today that rely on patents to protect innovation. Companies can now draw up broadly defined patents and sit back and wait until an unsuspecting company develops an actual working version of the theoretical patent on its own and sells it to paying customers. Lawsuit time.

While patents do serve a very real and useful purpose, the potential for abuse is quite evident.

NTP’s withering storm of lawsuits looks impressive. However advances in the science of how companies implement technologies to limit their liability from patent infringement has made considerable strides since NTP first sent a letter to RIM back in 2000. Besides, everyone being sued today has had four years since RIM’s loss to evaluate if they will be found guilty of infringing on NTP’s intellectual property.

NTP have a claim here or is it all smoke and mirrors hoping for a payout? Suing nearly everyone in the smartphone market at the same time might either be a cash cow or a bust. Let me know what you think.

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