The Truth about NTP

NTP is the group which is suing Research In Motion, the makers of Blackberry wireless handhelds. They’ve won a $450 Million judgement and are threatening to “shut down” Blackberry. They did this because they hold a few key patents in the wireless messaging arena.

So who is this NTP? No doubt they are a struggling, small startup just doing their best to bring their own products to market while being bullied by the huge conglomorate RIM, right? Well, not exactly. Actually, NTP is a holding company that has no assets except for a couple of patents. They’ve never built a product and have made no indications that they ever plan to. Instead, their plan is to just sue anyone else who actually does build things.

Also in the news today is that NTP (via Visto) is now suing Good Technology. Good has been a competitor to RIM for a while. Last year, in order to make sure that Good was not hit by NTP’s legal shenanigans, Good and NTP inked a deal for Good to license the patents. Good was proactive in seeking out this arrangement. Although I don’t personally think NTP should have this patent in the first place, our legal system lets it be, and Good did the right thing by legally licensing with NTP. Keep in mind that Good is a small company doesn’t have the deep pockets that RIM does. This was an easy deal for NTP, as it lends credibility to their patent, and yet doesn’t represent nearly the magnitude of dollars that suing RIM would represent.

Nonetheless, NTP’s greed remains unquenched, and they’ve now decided to go after their licensee Good under the Visto name.

Do you remember Visto? Of course not. They are basically dead now. They are a small, Silicon Valley startup that made some semi-interesting, but not-too-revolutionary sync products for wireless devices. Unfortunately, like many startups, they found that their biggest impediment to success was running out of money.

Thanks to our vulturous legal system, however, the corpse of Visto is still sputtering. NTP and Visto just announced last month that Visto has given NTP an equity stake in the company in exchange for use of NTP’s patents. The San Jose Mercury News ran an article titled, NTP ally Visto sues Good over wireless patents. But I thought Good was NTP’s ally that had licensed their patents? I guess that was last year!

This whole case with RIM, Good, and NTP is such a travesty. RIM is building a great product – millions of people use it daily. NTP, by contrast, builds nothing of value. The man who originally filed the patents NTP now holds is already dead, and the lawyers that remain at NTP are suing only to get rich. In the meantime, the poor guys at Good are trying to play by the rules with their meager startup budget. As a payback for helping out NTP, NTP goes and partners with another Good competitor, and then sues Good.

I hope NTP loses big time.

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