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NTP Sues Wireless Carriers for Patent Infringement

NTP, which won a $612.5 million settlement from the maker of BlackBerry last year, has sued four of the top U.S. mobile service providers for infringing eight patents related to wireless e-mail.

The lawsuits, against Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and the mobile unit of AT&T were filed on Sept. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, according to court documents.

Virginia-based NTP is best known for its prolonged patent infringement battle with Research In Motion, maker of BlackBerry, the popular wireless e-mail device. Rim settled the case in March last year by agreeing to the payment.

Now NTP, a patent holding company with a litigious history, is accusing U.S. wireless operators of patent infringements related to services that push e-mail to mobile phones. It is seeking jury trials, injunctive relief and monetary damages.

The suits follow a case NTP brought against Treo mobile phone maker Palm in November last year.

The judge in the Palm case granted a stay of the suit in March this year and agreed to strike an NTP complaint alleging misbehavior by Palm at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Given that the patent office is currently examining the validity of the NTP patents in the cases filed on Wednesday and the fact that Palm received a stay in its case, one patent expert said the same could happen in this case.

"Since Palm got its case stayed, there's a strong possibility these actions should also be stayed if requested by the defendants," said Fred Colen, a Pittsburgh-based patent litigator for law firm Reed Smith.

Colen also noted that BlackBerry's settlement should not effect the outcome of the current case.

Good Technology, now owned by Motorola has a technology license agreement with NTP as has Nokia , the world's biggest mobile phone maker.

Officials for AT&T, Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group, and T-Mobile USA, owned by Deutsche Telekom , declined comment. Sprint said it was reviewing the complaint.

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