Judge halts patent case against Palm

The ruling means Palm can continue to sell its smart phones until patent office rules whether they infringe on plaintiff NPD's patents.

In a preliminary victory for Palm, a federal judge halted proceedings Thursday related to a patent infringement lawsuit brought against it by NTP.

The ruling, handed down by Judge James R. Spencer of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, essentially means Palm can continue to sell products in question--the line of Treo smart phones, the Palm VII, Palm i700 and Palm Tungsten--at least until the U.S. Patent and Trademark (PTO) rules on whether they infringe on wireless e-mail patents held by NTP. All additional discovery, motions and depositions were also halted until the PTO rules on the validity of NTP's patents.

Palm originally filed its motion to stay the proceedings on January 31.

"We are extremely pleased with the court's decision to grant a stay. We hope and expect that the PTO's review of NTP's patents will confirm the decision of the examiners to reject them all and so avert the need for further litigation of this matter," said Mary Doyle, Palm's senior vice president and general counsel, in a statement.

NTP declined to say whether it plans to appeal the ruling, but released a statement saying "NTP's patents remain fully enforceable. The ongoing reexamination by the (PTO) is one step in a process that could end in the federal court system, including the Court of Appeals, which previously upheld NTP's patents."

NTP, formed to pursue intellectual-property cases involving patents held by the late Thomas Campana for a wireless e-mail system, initially filed its lawsuit against Palm in November 2006. The company settled a patent-infringement case with RIM in early 2006 for $612.5 million.

The court's ruling coincided with Palm's quarterly earnings announcement Thursday, in which revenues and Treo sales were up, but earnings lower.

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