updated 08:18 pm EDT, Mon July 23, 2012
Terms of settlement remain unclear
Patent holding company NTP has announced that it has inked settlement agreements with many of the biggest names in the tech industry, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, among others. The settlement brings an end to the ongoing litigation, which focused on eight patents related to e-mail delivery via wireless networks.
NTP has declined to disclose the amount of compensation it is receiving from the 13 companies, though the same patents were asserted in a related lawsuit that eventually led to a $612 million settlement from Research In Motion. It is unclear if the Virginia-based patent holder pushed for the same one-time payout it received from the BlackBerry maker, or if the companies agreed to pay future royalties.
The latest suit started in 2007 with filings against wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. The lawsuits were expanded in 2010, adding additional defendants such as Apple, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Palm, Yahoo, Samsung and Motorola.
Defendants at one time successfully pushed the US Patent and Trademark Office to invalidate several of the patents, based on prior art. The decision was contested by NTP and eventually overturned in appeals court, however, after officials found the earlier ruling to be based on overly broad interpretations of the patent descriptions.
As a non-practicing entity that does not produce products related to its patent holdings, NTP has been labeled a "patent troll." Rather than relying on profits from products or services, the company focuses on revenue from licensing agreements or lawsuit settlements.
"There's a lot of use of this term patent troll to trivialize the discussion around what is the source of innovation," NTP attorney Ron Epstein told Bloomberg in an interview. "Ultimately, there was a recognition that Tom Campana had in fact, back in the early 90s, developed a system that did wireless e-mail."
Settlements in patent lawsuits typically result separate agreements for each of the defendants, however NTP is said to have fetched a collective settlement from most of the large players in the wireless industry.