Last Friday, not only did Federal District Court Judge James R. Spencer decide not to impose an injunction on Research in Motion, but the United States Patent and Trademark Office rejected the final 3 of 5 patents NTP successfully litigated. Much of the talk since the hearing has been about settlement talks or lack there of less a press release on the RIM website and and comments made by RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie in an interview right outside the courthouse after the hearing.
My question is what do these rejected patents really mean? I am hoping that someone versed in patent law can chime in because I would think if the patents that RIM was guilty of infringing upon don’t actually exist any longer in the eyes of the USPTO, NTP wouldn’t have a leg to stand. This, however, must not be the case because all we have heard about for the passed two days are some type of settlement between NTP and RIM.
I think this stems from the fact that a jury has already determined that RIM was at fault and a verdict was handed down against RIM. I’m not versed in patent law but I agree they should at least get 2nd trial based upon the new findings of the PTO. If the PTO has determined that these patents are invalid, then the lawsuit should be dropped, the verdict reversed, and RIM should be free to do what they want.
This is no different then someone being but on trial for murder, convicted of murder, then later evidence was found that shows the convicted person to be innocent. In this scenario, the convicted person would be able to get a 2nd trial. RIM should also get the second trial with the new evidence that the patents are invalid.
Two main effects of the PTO’s ruling:
– an injunction isn’t going to be appropriate (as we’ve seen), because enjoining someone from infringing a patent claim that’s been invalidated isn’t going to fly.
– NTP’s bargaining position is far worse now, and they have a greater incentive to settle.
This is of course good news for RIM, but the case is by no means over. NTP can (and almost certainly will) appeal the PTO’s rejection, and then they can appeal that decision if it goes against them.
If and when NTP exhaust their appeals, then I’d expect the jury verdict to be overturned in short order (because no reasonable jury could have found an invalid patent to be infringed). The case then most likely wouldn’t go to trial again – bringing a lawsuit against someone for infringement of an invalidated patent is a good way for an attorney to get sanctioned.
If I were in NTP’s shoes, I’d be looking to settle right now.
(NB: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice)