NTP Patents Likely To Get Rejected

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The technology patents at the heart of an infringement lawsuit by NTP against Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, are likely to be struck down by the United States patent office, both companies said on Monday, a move that would be a setback for NTP.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office took the unusual step of notifying the companies that it expected to reject the five patents held by NTP in its final rulings.

The office has issued preliminary rejections of all five wireless e-mail patents in the past. The final rulings may come by mid-February, earlier than expected.

“The patent owner’s arguments are deemed nonpersuasive,” said the patent office document, which was received last week but dated Nov. 30. “The next office action is expected to be a final rejection of all current claims.”

The patent review, which was requested by R.I.M., is a proceeding separate from the patent infringement lawsuit that could potentially shut most BlackBerry service in the United States early next year.

Judge James R. Spencer, of United States District Court in Richmond, Va., who is overseeing the infringement case, has set a timetable for hearings on issuing an injunction against R.I.M. that could coincide with the timing of the patent office’s final rulings.

The patent office document was sent along with a letter dated Dec. 14 in which the office introduced an accelerated timetable for the review and promised additional staff resources for the examination.

“It was a resounding rejection of NTP’s position,” James L. Balsillie, R.I.M.’s chairman and co-chief executive said on a telephone interview from the company’s headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario. “The jig is up. I think the world is now starting to realize what is happening.”

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