NTP co-founder faces lawsuits over RIM winnings

Aug 23 2006 - 03:09 PM ET | Research In Motion

NTP's successful patent infringement lawsuit against Research In Motion (maker of BlackBerry) was given a lot of attention. Not much has been heard since the $612 million settlement was made, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the largest benefactor of the settlement is facing his own legal battle.

Donald Stout co-founded NTP [Wikipedia] with Tom Campana in 1992. Stout received $177 million of RIM's settlement. Campana died from lung cancer before the settlement was made, but his widow received $153 million. According to the article, NTP's patents that made its infringement case against RIM actually came out of a bankruptcy ruling from a company called Telefind. Stout served as Telefind's patent attorney and thus had an intimate knowledge of the IP.

Telefind's founder, Andy Andros, worked with Campana and the pair put their IP into the hands of Telefind. But when the company fell into hard times and declared bankruptcy, Andros allegedly schemed with Campana to testify that the potentially valuable patents belonged to Campana and were not Telefind property that could be seized by a creditor.

However only during the latest legal battle with RIM, a decade later, documents to the contrary came to light. Andros is now deceased but his family argues that Stout and Campana effectively stole control of the patents, now worth a staggering $600 million. The family is now involved in a lawsuit to get a cut of the winnings.

An expert witness testified that the work in question far surpassed anything usable on the Telefind network, suggesting that Mr. Campana must have worked on the technology by himself. That witness, a patent attorney and hunting friend of Mr. Stout named Bill Wright, became one of the largest investors in NTP, taking home $20 million from the RIM settlement.