Although NTP v. RIM settled years ago, the PTO’s reexamination of NTP’s patents have continued to plod along. In the background are allegations by NTP that PTO officials improperly (and covertly) met with RIM CEO Jim Balsillie and other RIM representatives regarding the ongoing (ex parte) reexaminations.
During ex parte reexaminatoin, third-party communications are strictly forbidden. It is clear, however, that in the months leading up to the NTP settlement, the PTO was feeling a tremendous amount of political pressure from RIM as well as Congress and the Senate.
Now, Congressman Howard Berman has demanded information from the PTO regarding these meetings “hand-delivered” by “May 19, 2008.”
“Did this meeting [with Balsillie and counsel] take place? What was discussed at this meeting? What is the USPTO’s policy concerning ex parte communications between senior USPTO officials and parties who have an interest in the outcome of proceedings before the office? In what other instances, if any, did senior USPTO officials engage in similar ex parte communications with parties that had an interest in the outcome of a proceeding being conducted before the Office?”
Hopefully the Office will be able to provide Chairman Berman with a tidy set of evidence to clarify the rules and exactly what happened.