(Update: Visto has since sued Microsoft for allegedly infringing upon multiple patents Visto holds regarding proprietary technology that provides consumers with mobile access to their e-mail and data. Visto claims Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 infringes on three of its patents that provide users with access to corporate e-mail servers on their mobile devices.)
Techdirt has a little summary of how two Silicon Valley start-ups, Visto and Good, are allying with NTP to put pressure on Blackberry’s parent, Research in Motion. It is a new sort of sophisticated dual track investment-legal strategy we haven’t seen much of before.
Visto, a smaller rival to Research In Motion in the mobile e-mail market, said today it had licensed the patents of NTP, the company involved in a long-running patent dispute with RIM. Like its deal with Good Technology, NTP has taken an equity stake in Visto. It’s not clear if it got the stake in exchange for licensing the patents, but the wording of the Visto press release makes it sound like the stake was acquired separately. If this is the case, NTP would be propping up both Good and Visto, essentially giving them money to license the patents in hopes of turning up the pressure on RIM to settle. The Patent Office continues to move toward rejecting NTP’s patents, while things look grim for RIM in the courts. We noted with the Good deal that NTP’s investment seemed a little fishy; so does its taking a stake in Visto. Clearly NTP wants to force a settlement with RIM as quickly as it can, before the Patent Office acts definitively. That doesn’t engender much faith that its patents are actually valid.