NTP announces patent settlements with 13 tech firms

Settling firms include Apple, Google and Microsoft, the patent holding company announces

Patent holding firm NTP, which won a US$612.5 million patent settlement from Research In Motion in 2006, has reached a possibly unprecedented agreement with 13 other technology vendors, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and AT&T, the company announced Monday.

NTP didn't disclose the terms of the patent settlements. The agreements allow the tech firms to use NTP's patented technology, including eight U.S. patents related to the delivery of email over wireless systems, NTP said in a press release. NTP will get licensing fees from the tech firms, added Ron Epstein, founder of Epicenter Law and settlement counsel for NTP.

Companies reaching settlements with NTP also included Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, HTC, Motorola Mobility, Palm, LG Electronics, Samsung and Yahoo. All the pending patent-infringement litigation between NTP and these companies will be dismissed, NTP said.

The settlements announced Monday may represent the first time a patent holder has made its patents available in a one-time settlement deal with the large part of a single industry, Epstein said.

"Here, you've got the entire cellphone industry, other than RIM, inking a deal at one time," he said. "Traditionally, these things are done one at a time, often involving high transaction costs, otherwise known as court action."

NTP was able to offer the licenses at "substantial discounts," yet get a reasonable compensation because so many companies were at the negotiating table, Epstein said.

Following a lengthy court case and then the 2006 settlement with RIM, NTP filed a series of lawsuits against the tech companies between 2007 and 2010. Those lawsuits had been on hold after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected parts of NTP's patents at the same time as the RIM court case.

But in August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit ordered the patent office to reconsider the decision. After the appeals court decision, USPTO decided late last year to stop pursuing the invalidation of the patents, Epstein said.

NTP, based in Richmond, Virginia, was founded by late inventor Thomas Campana Jr. and his partners in 1992. NTP holds more than 25 patents, the company said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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