The U.S. patent office has ruled against the last of five NTP Inc. patents at the center of a legal dispute between NTP and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., NTP confirmed Thursday.
NTP, a closely held U.S.-based patent holding company, successfully sued RIM in 2002 for patent infringement and later won an injunction, stayed pending appeal, to halt U.S. sales of RIM's wireless e-mail device.
At the same time, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been re-examining the validity of eight NTP patents, five of which were involved in the patent-infringement suit.
NTP lawyer James Wallace confirmed to Reuters that the patent office has made a "first office action" rejecting the claims in the final NTP patent, as it has with seven other patents.
Some analysts have characterized the rulings as striking down the NTP patents. Wallace said the the decision was not unexpected and the firm planned see the full re-examination process through, which could take years.
"It is potentially a long, multiyear process. This was to be expected. This is what we predicted before anything happened in the first seven cases," Wallace said.
RIM declined to comment on the patent office decision. It has welcomed past decisions, saying they uphold its original contention of that the NTP patents aren't valid.
Analysts have said the patent office decisions give RIM more leverage in its negotiations with NTP. But they warned investors against becoming too euphoric, noting the decision has only partial bearing on the case.
Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM agreed in March to pay $450 million to end the dispute, but the deal fell apart in June.
Wallace declined to comment on whether NTP was still in talks on a settlement with RIM.
On the legal front, a U.S. appeals court in August scaled back a December ruling that had upheld patent infringement charges.
RIM has continued the legal fight and has said it might seek a review by the United States Supreme Court.