The case against Research In Motion, the Canadian manufacturer of the popular BlackBerry wireless device, brought by a Virginia-based company suffered another blow as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced Friday that it had rejected the fifth of eight patents the challenger is claiming.
The patent in question was the fifth in a row rejected by the patent office. Only three remain to be reexamined. The patent office had initiated the review of four of the disputed patents in January 2003, while Research In Motion requested a review of others. The patents are owned by NTP, a holding company founded by Thomas Campagna, an inventor who died in June 2004.
The latest patent-office rejection appears to be setting the stage for a potential nullification of the entire set of patents at the heart of the dispute between NTP and RIM. It also opens up the possibility that their multiyear lawsuit–which the two parties agreed to settle last March–may turn out to be moot.
The rejection of the patents is not final. NTP will have the opportunity to appeal and convince the patent examiners that they have erred. The rejection essentially means that patent examiners believe the original patents never should have been awarded in the first place, and begins a process under which the patents may be overturned entirely. Such an action would only strengthen RIM’s hand in court. .
The decision is the latest turn in a three-year-old case that gets ever more confusing by the day. Last week the two companies announced they had reached an impasse in negotiating unspecified points of their settlement agreement, which would have had RIM paying NTP $450 million for unfettered use of the five patents that NTP claimed RIM had infringed.