RIM, NTP Settlement in Jeopardy

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The settlement of the long-running patent infringement lawsuit between Research in Motion (RIM) and NTP appears to be coming apart.

NTP started this suit in 2001, charging that the RIM’s BlackBerry line of wireless handhelds used technology that infringed on several patents held by NTP.

Over the following years, the suit has worked its way through the courts, with the decisions almost universally going against RIM.

RIM Earlier this year, the two companies reached a settlement. They agreed that NTP will grant RIM and its customers an unfettered right to continue its BlackBerry-related wireless business without further interference from NTP or its patents.

In return, RIM will pay $450 million for all claims to date against RIM, as well as for a perpetual, fully-paid up license to the patents going forward.

Over the following months, however, the two companies have been unable to agree on the exact details of the settlement, and, yesterday, RIM announced that it was going to court to force NTP to do what it believes NTP agreed to.

A written statement from RIM says, “Since signing and jointly announcing the binding Term Sheet with NTP, RIM has been negotiating in good faith to complete that process. However, NTP refuses to honor its obligations under the Term Sheet and finalize the definitive documents. As a result, an impasse has been reached with respect to the settlement.”

NTP responded by filing a brief with the court that said, “Unfortunately, it very quickly became evident that the parties had interpreted the vague term sheet in entirely different manners regarding virtually every significant provision. For example, the parties had significant differences in the scope of the non-exclusive license grant and RIM’s ability to sublicense NTP’s patents and thereby deprive NTP of additional royalties.”

In another twist, since this settlement was announced, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ruled that two of NTP’s patents that are at the heart of this case were invalid, and it continues to examine the remaining ones.

Thanks to Alan Grassia for the tip.

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