Mobile e-mail start-up Visto Corp. has sued Microsoft Corp. for allegedly infringing three of its patents related to how information is handled between servers and hand-held devices such as cellular phones.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages and a permanent injunction to stop the alleged infringement, was filed late Wednesday -- the same day Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Visto announced that NTP Inc. had acquired an equity stake in the start-up and signed a patent licensing deal.
Visto's allegations against Microsoft and its Windows Mobile 5.0 are similar to Arlington, Va.-based NTP's against Research in Motion Ltd., a Canadian company that is facing the possible shutdown of its popular BlackBerry messaging service in the United States.
"Windows Mobile 5.0 is an infringement of Visto's intellectual property of a technology that our firm created, patented and successfully sells on the market today," Visto Chief Executive Brian Bogosian said Thursday.
Jack Evans, a Microsoft spokesman, said the Redmond, Wash.-based company had not been served with the lawsuit.
"Until we have an opportunity to see and review this complaint, we're not in a position to comment on it," he said. "Microsoft stands behind its products and respects intellectual property rights."
Visto alleges that with portable devices handling more e-mail, Microsoft is making matters worse by bundling its Windows Mobile operating system with its market-leading Exchange e-mail server.
"This method of bundling software has led Microsoft to be prosecuted by competition authorities in the past, and in this case, potentially increases the rate and manner in which their infringement on Visto's patents occurs," the start-up company said.
NTP's deal with Visto could help it bolster its case against Research in Motion as it can now say it is more than a company that just holds patents and litigates to enforce them. Under the agreement, Visto will have access to NTP's patent portfolio for the life of the patents.
"This is a clear win for mobile e-mail users everywhere as it provides them with a viable alternative to [Research in Motion] that protects them from any NTP litigation risk," said Donald E. Stout, NTP's co-founder.
Visto said its clients included Cingular Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp., Vodafone Group and Rogers Wireless. It has more than 300 employees and holds 25 patents.