NTP v. Research-In-Motion (BlackBerry lawsuit).
In December 2004, the Federal Circuit released its opinion that pushed against the territorial bounds of patent law. In that opinion, the CAFC found that U.S. patent law covers instances where infringing elements are located abroad — so long as the “control and beneficial use” of the infringing system is within U.S. territory. Soon thereafter, RIM filed a motion for rehearing en banc that is still pending.
The CAFC’s decision, strongly in favor of NTP, paved the way for a March 2005 “settlement” that reportedly included $450 million for NTP. The original settlement announcement was based on a 1/2 page term-sheet reportedly signed by the parties. As would be expected, 50 square inches of paper turned out to create a whole new level of disagreement between the parties who have been working through court mediation to flesh out the agreement.
Settlement Breakdown: In early June, the settlement issue came to a head and the parties staked out their positions on paper. In a motion filed with the CAFC, RIM argues that the term-sheet was a settlement of the case, and, as such, the case is now moot. RIM asked the CAFC to stay its decision on the for rehearing and remand the case to the district court to decide whether there has been a settlement. On the other hand, NTP has argued that the term-sheet was not a settlement and that there was never a “meeting of the minds.” The filed motions are attached below:
Reexamination: In a parallel action, the patents at issue in the case (owned by NTP) are undergoing reexamination at the USPTO. As occurs in almost all inter partes and director-ordered reexaminations, the patent office has issued a non-final rejection in each NTP case that it has examined. Although this first rejection is a good sign for RIM, a final decision in the reexam will not be any time soon. (i.e., will not be for several years). NTP has the opportunity to file a response to the non-final rejection. The PTO may then issue a final rejection, at which point NTP may ask for reconsideration, appeal to the PTO’s internal board (BPAI), and then appeal to the federal courts (i.e., the courts that have already determined that the patents are valid).
This week, NTP filed its first response to a rejection in the reexamination for Patent No. 5,631,946. In the response, NTP made no amendments to existing claims, but did add over 100 new claims — including many multiple dependent claims. The filed papers are attached below (THESE ARE BIG FILES):
Bottom Line: Unless the parties come to another settlement agreement, this case will continue for several more years.