NTP settles e-mail patent suit with Google, Apple, Microsoft and others

The company holding the keys to using e-mail over wireless has signed an agreement with the world's top cell phone makers and wireless network carriers.

NTP, which some say held the mobile world hostage with its e-mail patents, has signed an agreement that will let companies including Google, Apple, and Microsoft use its patent for allowing e-mail services on handsets.

The company announced today in a press release that it has reached a mutual resolution with 13 companies, including wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile; smartphone manufacturers Apple, HTC, Motorola Mobility, Palm, LG, and Samsung; and e-mail service and software providers Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

As a result, all pending litigation between NTP and the companies will be dismissed, the release said. NTP owns eight U.S. patents related to delivering e-mail over wireless systems.

NTP did not disclose the details of this recent agreement.

NTP and Research in Motion settled a similar dispute in 2006 for $612.5 million before going after the various tech companies and wireless providers. RIM now licenses the NTP patents.

It seems, more agreements may be coming.

Ron Epstein, founder of Epicenter Law and a settlement counsel to NTP, said NTP is in talks with a few more companies -- he couldn't name names -- even though this most recent agreement involves a large segment of the industry.

Epstein said he couldn't talk about the details of the agreement, but this is the first time in his 22 years of practice that he's seen an agreement of this size, among this many companies within an industry.

"I don't think anyone is making acknowledgments of anything," Epstein said of the agreement. "All I can say is the economic transaction made sense."

Epstein said the NTP patent portfolio is a valuable one, adding that NTP founder Thomas Campana developed the email technology in 1991 before there wasn't a popular use for it. Epstein called the portfolio "the most heavily litigated portfolio," and said the agreements are merely an opportunity for NTP to be rewarded for innovation.

"The real issue is because (intellectual property) can only be enforced through court action, lawyers are heavily involved as a consequence. You can get into a lot of line drawing actions, but the bottom line there are innovations," Epstein said.

Update, 4:46 p.m. PT: Updated with comments from NTP settlement counsel Rob Epstein.

 

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