Another Patent Suit for RIM

Maybe it’s time to switch to a new wireless e-mail provider. Blackberry maker Research in Motion has been hauled into court once again for patent infringement. This time the accuser is no mere patent-holding company. Redwood Shores’ Visto Inc. makes wireless e-mail software for handheld devices such as PDAs, smart phones and cellular phones. The 10-year-old venture-backed company sued RIM on Friday, the same day it won a $3.6 million jury verdict in Marshall, Texas against rival Seven Networks of Redwood City for infringing three Visto patents.

“Based on Visto’s sweeping victory in court against Seven Networks on Friday, RIM must understand there is no place in the mobile e-mail space for this sort of behavior,” Visto CEO Brian Bogosian said in a statement. “Under the law, which protects consumers from products that contain infringing technology, RIM should not be able to sell the Blackberry system.”

Visto is asserting four of its patents against RIM. The company is seeking an injunction and unspecified monetary damages. It’s been reported that NTP Inc., the patent-holding company that won a $612.5 million settlement from RIM, has invested in the company.

Visto spokeswoman Suzanne Panoplos, however, said NTP owns only a “tiny percentage” of the company. The company has also recently sued Microsoft Corp. and Good Technology over the some of the same wireless e-mail patents.

The company has filed all of its patent suits in the Eastern District Court of Texas, which has earned a reputation for being patentee-friendly.

Prior to its foray into patent enforcement, the company has happily sold its products to some of the biggest names in the wireless phone industry, such as AT&T Wireless, Nextel Communications, and Vodafone Global. Panoplos said the company has 25 issued patents and 57 pending applications, but has not licensed its technology in the past.

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips’ litigation partners Ronald S. Katz and Robert D. Becker are representing Visto in the case.

Xenia P. Kobylarz

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