NTP takes on Apple, Google, Microsoft and others in email patent suit

Patent-holding firm NTP, which won $612.5 million when it settled a patent suit against Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) in 2006, is now going after Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google, Microsoft, HTC, LG and Motorola (NYSE:MOT). In a lawsuit filed yesterday in the federal district court in Richmond, Va., NTP claims the email systems those companies are using in their smartphones infringe on NTP's patented technology.

This lawsuit is the latest step by NTP, which claims its intellectual property is used as the foundation for all wireless email systems. Legal experts say the company could be awarded several million dollars if its claim is found valid. However, patent experts say the company is less likely to win this time because, after RIM's settlement with NTP, many smartphone makers altered their product and technology designs to avoid infringing on NTP's patents. All companies named as defendants in the case declined to comment.

Critics have called NTP a patent troll because the company has never made any commercial products nor produced any services. In fact, its founder Thomas Campana Jr., an engineer and investor, died in 2004. The company, which is privately held, is now owned by about 30 investors.

In 2007, NTP also sued AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), claiming their wireless email services infringed on NTP's patents. Those lawsuits have not been settled or come to trial. NTP wants royalties based on the sales of phones and PDAs.

The NTP patents expire in 2012.  

In related news, a U.S. trade panel will investigate a complaint that Nokia (NYSE:NOK), RIM, HTC, and LG infringed on Flashpoint Technology's patents that provide electronic imaging for devices such as digital cameras in cell phones, laptops and PDAs. 

For more:
- see this NYT article
- see this Reuters article

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