Did Bilski Inspire the NTP Suit Against Apple, Google, etc?

An army of trolls stands on guard.

A panelist of experts warned that the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski v. Kappos (check out Your Cheat Sheet to Bilski over here) could very well open the door for a wave of litigation from patent trolls.

This morning, we learned that NTP, Inc., a company which extracted a $612.5 million payout from Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) in 2006, filed suit against Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), HTC, LG, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT).  The case was filed in a US District Court in Virginia, and accuses the aforementioned companies of infringing on patents in wireless e-mail delivery to the tune of billions of dollars.

According to Fiercewireless.com:

This lawsuit is the latest step by NTP, which claims its intellectual property is used as the foundation for all wireless email systems. Legal experts say the company could be awarded several million dollars if its claim is found valid. However, patent experts say the company is less likely to win this time because, after RIM’s settlement with NTP, many smartphone makers altered their product and technology designs to avoid infringing on NTP’s patents. All companies named as defendants in the case declined to comment.

Critics have called NTP a patent troll because the company has never made any commercial products nor produced any services. In fact, its founder Thomas Campana Jr., an engineer and investor, died in 2004. The company, which is privately held, is now owned by about 30 investors.

It’s unclear whether NTP was motivated more by its success in attacking Research in Motion, or by the Bilski case itself, but it is clear that the Supreme Court’s decision generated enough uncertainty to as to inspire more such cases for lower level Federal Courts to sort out.

Uncertainty lends itself to more litigation.  I look forward to learning more about the specifics of the filing in order to assess whether the Supreme Court’s ruling that the machine-or-transformation test is not the applicable standard on the patentability of business methods played a role inspiring this claim from NTP.  Stay tuned for more.

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