Article One Partners announced yesterday that patents held by NTP Incorporated are the focus of three new requests for research, which Article One Partners refers to as Patent Studies. NTP was made famous for its litigation against BlackBerry maker Research-in-Motion (RIM) that resulted in a settlement north of $600 million. New litigation by NTP has expanded the assertion of patent infringement to other top players in the mobile and smartphone industry, which is prompting Article One Partners to engage their global community of researchers by challenging them to identify evidence predating the patents in question and which can be used to invalidate one or more of the patent claims owned by NTP.
“This is a great opportunity for the public to engage directly in patent review related litigation that influences the use of email on mobile devices,” said Cheryl Milone, CEO of Article One Partners. “We welcome individuals with an interest in the public review of these NTP patents to participate, and potentially be compensated for doing so.”
Up until perhaps a few days ago, NTP was probably the best known and certainly one of the most successful patent trolls (or non-practicing entities if you prefer) ever. Their take down of RIM with dogged determination on every level of the fight made some stand up and take notice of the possibilities presented by a new business model of buying and then vigorously enforcing patent rights. Their efforts made others stand up and take notice in a not so positive light, castigating them as evil and holding up innovation.
The rhetoric files back and forth and has presented the industry with real problems from a philosophical, moral and legal standpoint. Focusing on the alleged evil of the patent troll ignores the infringer and gives those who are tortfeasors a free pass, because after all isn’t those who infringe that are the bad actors? But focusing on the alleged infringers and shining the spotlight there ignores that fact that the NTP model has grown almost out of control and unchecked, to the point where patent infringement lawsuits are filed against small and mid-size companies after no due diligence, or after due diligence that ends with whether the title of the patent generally describes the business area in which the defendant is engaged. Madness abounds.
On top of that, just days ago Intellectual Ventures, the entity that continually claimed it was only amassing a 30,000 strong patent portfolio for defensive purposes (yeah, right!) became the new top public enemy in the patent troll space. See Intellectual Ventures Becomes Patent Troll Public Enemy #1. Unfortunately, the district courts seem incapable of handling given the ridiculous complaints that are allowed to be filed pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and seemingly in direct contravention of the latest Supreme Court precedent on the specificity required in complaints.
Into this chaos comes Article One Partners, who has actually been around for a few years but will no doubt continue to grow in importance and influence given the trajectory of patent infringement litigation and reexamination disputes. Article One Partners doesn’t seem to get involved in the rhetoric of the debate, but rather they focus on the rights granted by the Patent Office. If the claims you have obtained are too broad then you shouldn’t have received them and they should be stripped from you. If the claims you have obtained are legitimate then fine. In fact, in some cases Article One has set out calls for research and have come up with new prior art that was used to reevaluate claims, with the claims standing or largely standing. So whatever you think of the patent troll issue, Article One Partners is above the fray and focuses on the law, the science and the rights. They seem to be providing a real public service.
Enter Article One Partners into the NTP fray. Since 2006, NTP has filed suit against 13 defendants in separate cases, asserting up to eight NTP patents related to the delivery of electronic mail over wireless communications systems. NTP has filed suit in the Eastern District of Virginia against the following defendants as named in the litigations: Alltel Corp.; Apple Inc.; AT&T Mobility, LLC; Google Inc.; HTC Corp.; LG Electronics Inc.; Microsoft Corp.; Motorola Inc.; Palm Inc.; Sprint Nextel Corp.; T-Mobile USA Inc.; Verizon Wireless; and Yahoo! Inc.
Those interested in researching can learn more at NTP Patent Studies, where there is information on each of the three studies. What Article One Partners is looking for is publicly available information that predates a patent’s invention, which teaches, or renders obvious, the patent claims. Prior art knowledge and evidence may come from published content anywhere in the world and in any language. This includes: previous patents; news or academic publications; non-digitized documents such as textbooks; or any public document provided to others, including conference or academic papers and business materials. Prior art is often found in documents tucked away in a file cabinet years ago, or in the back corner of a library. Having said that, Article One is primarily interested in non-patent literature.
The first NTP study, which provides a $15,000 reward that is guaranteed to be paid to the Advisor who furnishes the best prior art, focuses on:
- US Patent No. 5,436,960, specifically claims 4, 6, 11, 15, 17, 21, 23, 28, 32, 34, 38, 40, 45, 49, 51, 55, 57, 62, 67, 79.
- US Patent No. 5,479,472, specifically claims 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 29, 31, 33, 35, 37.
The second NTP study, which provides a $10,000 reward that is guaranteed to be paid to the Advisor who furnishes the best prior art, focuses on:
- US Patent No. 5,625,670, specifically claims 1, 4, 8, 563, 567-570, with emphasis on prior art disclosing an electronic mail system that is coupled to a second processor, where the second processor receives information from an originating processor in the electronic mail system and causes the information to be transmitted to the destination processor via at least one interface and a RF information transmission network.
The third NTP study, which provides a $10,000 reward that is guaranteed to be paid to the Advisor who furnishes the best prior art, focuses on:
- US Patent No. 5,631,946, specifically claims 1, 288, 289, 290, 291, 296, 297, 298, 299, 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 307, 308, 309, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 333, with emphasis on prior art disclosing an electronic mail system that is coupled to a second processor, where the second processor receives information from an originating processor in the electronic mail system and causes the information to be transmitted to the destination processor via at least one interface and a RF information transmission network. Prior art of interest will also describe the use of an interface such as a gateway switch.
To date, according to their website, Article One Partners has awarded $785,000.00. Not too shabby!