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Patent holding company NTP settles with Apple, others over e-mail patent

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Apple, Google and a number of other huge technology companies have settled a suit with so-called "patent troll" NTP relating to a wireless e-mail patent that was previously used to harvest $612.5 million from RIM in 2006.

NTP, a patent holding operation that produces no products, dismissed its suit against a number of companies in the technology and communications sectors as the group settled out of court for undisclosed financial terms, reports Bloomberg.

The settlement brings an end to the suit first filed against AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile in 2007 and laterexpanded to include Apple, Google, Microsoft, HTC, LG and Motorola in 2010. At issue were eight patents credited to NTP co-founder Tom Campana, who the company claims is the "inventor of wireless e-mail," and related to e-mail delivery over wireless networks. Campana, who died of cancer in 2004, was a prolific inventor of communications patents of which NTP holds 50.

“Each of the parties in this arrangement are in some way making use of NTP’s, of Tom Campana’s, original wireless e-mail invention, although they’re at different levels of the industry,” said NTP lawyer Ron Epstein. “Some are providing wireless services, others e-mail, others the handset, but they all are getting the same license.”

Epstein is referring to the variety of companies involved in the suit, which came after NTP successfully leveraged the patent against BlackBerry maker RIM in 2006. Emboldened by the win, NTP sued the U.S. telecoms and handset makers but ex parte requests to review the patents in question delayed a ruling.

Apple's iOS Mail app. | Source: Apple

At the time of the suit's expansion in 2010, NTP co-founder and patent lawyer Donald E. Stout claimed the use of "intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair." He went on to say, "unfortunately, litigation is our only means of ensuring the inventor of the fundamental technology on which wireless e-mail is based, Tom Campana, and NTP shareholders are recognized, and are fairly and reasonably compensated for their innovative work and investment. We took the necessary action to protect our intellectual property."

Out of the 13 companies that settled, HTC alone issued a response saying it was “pleased to see this issue resolved reasonably and without further litigation."