Visto Sues Good Over Patents

Visto Corp. has filed suit against Good Technology Inc. , alleging that Good's mobile messaging products infringe on multiple Visto patents.

Add it to the list of legal disputes over mobile email patents, the most prominent of which is NTP's case against BlackBerry , which makes the popular Blackberry device.

NTP won an injunction against RIM in 2002 that would shut down the Blackberry service, stranding millions of enterprise users who have come to rely on mobile email for daily business. That ruling has been stayed pending appeal; a final ruling in the case is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Visto's suit against Good comes at a time when many Blackberry users have been seeking alternative service, in case of a Blackberry shutdown. Visto, which signed a licensing agreement with NTP (which holds several mobile-email patents but does not sell products or services based on them) in December, claims that GoodLink, Good's mobile email service, infringes on Visto's patents. The company is seeking a permanent injunction that would shut down the GoodLink service, along with monetary damages.

"We have made tremendous technological and financial investments since 1996 and we refuse to allow others to benefit freely from our hard work and commitment to innovation," said Visto CEO Brian Bogosian in a statement. "Good Technology, like other late entrants to this market, has no patents directed to wireless e-mail and very clearly infringes on our long-held intellectual property.”

A spokesperson for Good says that the company will have no comment until it has had a chance to review the complaint.

Visto senior vice president for intellectual property Daniel Mendez denies that the timing of the suit against Good is related to the expected ruling in the NTP-RIM dispute.

"These are hard decisions for a company, and there's always something else going on," says Mendez. "By the time you make the determination to take an action like this, there's going to be other news. Is there a correlation? No, it's just coincidence."

Both Visto and Good have in recent months presented themselves as "safe harbors," unencumbered by any patent disputes. Like Visto, Good has also signed a licensing agreement with NTP.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a series of preliminary rulings that would, if made final, invalidate the NTP patents. Visto's patent portfolio, Mendez claims, is not subject to similar rejection.

"We have one patent that has been reexamined three times and been declared valid three times by the Patent Office," Mendez says.

Mendez declines to say whether there have been settlement talks with Good Technology. Eventually, he adds, the patent disputes around mobile email, which have created confusion and anxiety for customers and slowed growth of the mobile messaging market, will be resolved.

"We are business people, and we're working hard to insure that there's a solution out there for customers that eliminates all this noise. Any company that approaches us with a fair offer to license our patents, we will consider it.

"It might take one, two, or three years, but it's all going to get resolved -- I have no doubt."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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