June 12, 2006
PTO Inequitable Conduct?
NTP continues to pitch a fit over alleged shenanigans by the U.S. patent office in reexamining the NTP patents that netted $612.5 million from RIM.
NTP's bitch list begins with delaying reexamination proceedings until after NTP founder and inventor Thomas Campana Jr. died. NTP alleges that the delay was intended to prevent information that only Campana knew from helping NTP's case. NTP stated, "Despite patent office assurances that actions were imminent, the patent office delayed without explanation - until long after Mr. Capana's death, to finalize their review of NTP patents."
NTP has filed a Freedom of Information Act action to force the patent agency to disclose all communications it had regarding the reexams. Bowing to perceived political pressure, it appears that RIM had improper access to patent agency officials regarding the NTP reexams. These communications are not part of the record. NTP has already amassed quite a litany indicating improper contact with RIM officials, and a coverup. NTP head Donald Stout says, "It is clear that there has been a fair amount of contact while the reexamination has been going on. The patent office requires that everything that happens should be part of that official record, and those communications are not being made of record." NTP alleges that the patent office director was telling the examiners what to do in the reexams.
The timing of reexams, and office actions, is odd. Only two of NTP's five related patents have been rejected so far, a delay which could retard enforcement of the patents, as a judge could stay infringement enforcement proceedings pending the outcome of the reexams. Stout said, "We want the patent office to quickly decide this and do what it said it was going to do when RIM was in the case." But in peculiar fast forward during reexam, the patent office issued a final rejection five days after receiving NTP's reply. "The examiners couldn't have looked at our arguments. Are they unbiased? Show us your communications."
The patent office refused to even accept the document NTP sent addressing these issues, confirming that it returned a "lengthy document" that "had nothing to do with the reexamination and did not go to whether an invention is patentable," stated Brigid Quin, agency spokeswoman. Quinn maintains that "reexamination is done by professional patent examiners in strict compliance with all rules and laws. There were not meetings [with RIM] about the reexaminations."
Stout says he is "seriously considering" taking the patent agency to court, to force disclosure. "There is an appearance of impropriety that needs to be answered by full disclosure. If I am wrong, I will say I am wrong."
Posted by Patent Hawk at June 12, 2006 7:57 PM | The Patent Office