NTP Inc., the patent-owning entity that got $612 million out of a suit against BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd., has hit the nation's top four wireless carriers with similar lawsuits.
The cases, filed last Friday in the federal district court in Richmond, contend that the carriers infringe on eight patents related to wireless e-mail that were granted between 1995 and 2001 to Thomas Campana, whose inventions became NTP's portfolio. The defendants are AT&T Inc., Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T declined to comment. Representatives for the other two did not immediately return messages Wednesday.
These eight patents are contentious — the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is reviewing their validity. Even so, RIM settled with NTP in 2006 after losing court rulings that threatened to shut down the popular BlackBerry network. And NTP has won licensing deals with other mobile-computing companies, including Nokia Corp., Visto Corp. and Good Technology, now part of Motorola Inc.
NTP is also suing Palm Inc., maker of the Treo handheld computer, though that case has been stayed pending the Patent Office's ruling on NTP's patents.
With Campana now dead, NTP is now run by his attorney, Donald Stout. Stout declined to comment on the new cases.