Seven-Visto battle follows RIM-NTP path

Seven Networks loses round in its court fight with Visto over patent infringement

Seven Networks Inc. may be gambling that the timing of its push e-mail patent battle with Visto Corp. will lead to a better outcome in the case than Research In Motion Ltd. got in its patent fight with NTP Inc.

RIM and Seven both hoped that U.S. Patent and Trademark Office  rulings would invalidate patents at the center of infringement cases against the companies. In RIM's case, time worked against it and the Patent Office didn't finish reviewing the patents in question faster than the legal process played out. For Seven, it remains to be seen if that will be the case.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas this week upheld a jury decision from earlier this year that found Seven had infringed on three of Visto's patents. But the Patent Office made an initial ruling that one of the patents in question is invalid. In a statement yesterday, Seven said it expects the Patent Office to issue its final rulings, either rejecting Visto's patents or narrowing their scope, during the time that Seven is appealing the recent ruling.

RIM, maker of the popular BlackBerry push e-mail device, seemed to have a similar strategy in its battle with NTP. NTP sued RIM for patent infringement. In an unusual twist, the courts continued to rule in NTP's favor, based on existing final patent decisions, even though the Patent Office had issued several preliminary decisions invalidating the NTP patents. When it became clear that the Patent Office wouldn't issue a final judgment quickly and after deciding that the long-running suit was taking a toll on its business, RIM settled with NTP.

The Texas court this week also ordered Seven to pay Visto $7.7 million in damages plus attorney fees for infringing on the patents, Visto said in a statement today. The figure is double the damages set by a jury in April.

Seven made no mention of the damages ruling in its statement. Instead, Seven highlighted the judge's dismissal of one of five patent claims that Visto asserted against Seven. The court also put on hold an injunction that would have prevented Seven from continuing to sell its mobile push e-mail products, pending appeal, both companies said.

Visto has filed patent infringement suits against many of the leading push e-mail players, including Infowave Software Inc., RIM, Good Technology Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Most of the suits are pending except for the one against Infowave, which settled in 2004, agreeing to license Visto's software.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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