tampabay.com

BlackBerry award has new claimant

An engineer says he cowrote the software at the heart of NTP's $612-million patent dispute award.

By KRIS HUNDLEY
Published September 21, 2006


A West Palm Beach software engineer claims to be co-inventor of the technology key to the e-mail capability of popular BlackBerry devices.

And he filed a lawsuit Wednesday against NTP, a Virginia company that received a $612.5-million settlement in March from BlackBerry's maker over the same patents.

In the action filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, Oren Tavory demands at least half of NTP's settlement, saying he wrote the code that allows e-mail to be transmitted from a computer to a handheld device.

Tavory, 43, alleges that NTP did not include his name on seven critical patents "through omission, inadvertence and/or error." Tavory is being represented by the Tampa law firm of Conwell, Sukhia & Kirkpatrick.

A spokesman for NTP, an intellectual property company based in McLean, Va., did not return calls for comment. NTP was cofounded in 1992 by Thomas Campana Jr. and lawyer Donald Stout. Campana, who filed the patents being challenged by Tavory in the early 1990s, died of cancer in 2004.

According to the lawsuit, in 1989 Tavory was a consultant at Telefind Corp., a Coral Gables company that ran a nationwide paging network. Campana was an officer with Telefind. While there, Tavory wrote software code that would push an e-mail from a computer to a pager wirelessly, using it to check his e-mails while he was out of the office.

By 1990, Tavory was working with Campana on a side project, developing a version of the software for AT&T's Safari laptop. That effort hit roadblocks, however, and with AT&T losing interest and Telefind losing money, Tavory left the project in 1991.

Tavory's lawyer, Don Conwell, said it was not until his client read of the six-year patent dispute between Campana's NTP and BlackBerry's owner, Research in Motion, that he realized his role in developing the software at the center of that dispute.

"A portion of the code he wrote is even appended to Campana's patents," Conwell said. "Tavory's initials appear in the text."

Conwell said about a half-dozen of Telefind's executives also saw Tavory's wireless e-mail invention in operation before Campana filed the patent naming himself as sole inventor.

Tavory has been involved in a number of software businesses in the past 15 years and is himself the target of a copyright infringement case in U.S. District Court in South Florida. In that case, Vistar Technologies Corp. of West Palm Beach sued Tavory, who cofounded the company, over software used for health care credentialing. Conwell described that case as a dispute between shareholders and said it has no bearing on Tavory's claim on the BlackBerry technology.

"He actually conceived the idea and created the code," Conwell said. "And he ought to be rewarded."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Kris Hundley can be reached at hundley@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2996.