Did Apple and AT&T Infringe Patents?

Published by • December 3rd, 2007 RSS News Feed

Apple and AT&T on Monday, were sued for violating patents held by Klausner Technologies.

The lawsuit alleges that both companies were infringing on patented technology by offering Visual Voicemail service to iPhone customers. According to Apple Insider, Klausner is seeking damages and future royalties estimated at $360 million. The suit was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas. The claim argues that the sale of the iPhone, Visual Voicemail and other visual voice messaging services implemented by AT&T infronge Klausner’s patents.

The patents at issue are 5,572,576 and 5,283,818.
Patent 5,572,577 deals with the method for organizing communications via a Telephone Answering Device

A telephone answering device (TAD) which includes a means of intelligently organizing voice messages, associated entered codes such as personal IDs and home telephone numbers, and information stored in the memory of the TAD. These codes or numbers are decoded by means of the caller entering DTMF signals into the telephone which are recognized, recorded and processed by the TAD. When processed with codes and personal information previously entered into the device’s memory, the TAD displays the identity of the callers for each message, thus providing a menu of choices, i.e., a list of callers.

This enables the user to access messages in a selective manner based on the identity of the caller.The need to listen to the actual voice messages to determine the caller’s identity and the need to listen to the messages sequentially or chronologically is obviated, saving both time and effort. Additionally, because the voice message is also linked to pre-stored additional data in the data base, when hearing a message, one also can view relevant associated information, such as a fax number, etc., that might not have been left in the audio message but might be important. A remote access device is also provided that allows the user to retrieve and display the callers’ identities and select a message to be played back from a remote location.

..and Patent 5,283,818

A telephone answering device (TAD) which includes a means of intelligently organizing voice messages, associated entered codes such as personal IDs and home telephone numbers, and information stored in the memory of the TAD. These codes or numbers are decoded by means of the caller entering DTMF signals into the telephone which are recognized, recorded and processed by the TAD. When processed with codes and personal information previously entered into the device’s memory, the TAD displays the identity of the callers for each message, thus providing a menu of choices, i.e., a list of callers.

This enables the user to access messages in a selective manner based on the identity of the caller. The need to listen to the actual voice messages to determine the caller’s identity and the need to listen to the messages sequentially or chronologically is obviated, saving both time and effort. Additionally, because the voice message is also linked to pre-stored additional data in the data base, when hearing a message, one also can view relevant associated information, such as a fax number, etc., that might not have been left in the audio message but might be important.

Previously, when this issue was litigated, the big boys lost and were forced to purchases licenses. Among the juggernauts that bended previously, included Time Warner’s AOL for special voice mail features and Vonage for it’s Voicemail “Plus” services. With regard to iPhone, Klausner alleges that Apple violated its intellectual property rights byletting its users selectively retrieve voice messages using the iPhone’s inbox display.

“We have litigated this patent successfully on two prior occasions,” said Greg Dovel of Dovel & Luner, counsel for Klausner. “With the signing of each new licensee, we continue to receive further confirmation of the strength of our visual voicemail patents.”

Klausner’s lawyer’s have been busy. On Monday, they also filed claims against Comcast and Cablevision Systems Corp, as well as Ebay’s Skype. They are seeking damages and future royalties estimated at $300 million.

NEW YORK (AP) The lawsuit asserts that the above companies VOIP voicemail products and services infringe Klausner Technologies U.S. Patent 5,572,576. The patent has already been licensed to various other companies which provide the same visual voice messaging services, including Time Warners AOL (TWX:NYSE) for its AOL Voicemail services, Vonage Holdings (VG:NYSE) for its Vonage Voicemail Plus services as well as others, under the Klausner Patents. Cablevisions Optimum Voicemail, Comcasts Digital Voice Voicemail and eBays Skype Voicemail each violate Klausners intellectual property rights by allowing users to selectively retrieve and listen to voice messages via message inbox displays.

When all is said and done, these patented methods are going to net Klausner’ well over a billion dollars. Not a bad racket for Klausner, hopefully it’ll not stifle innovation in this area, though, it sounds like a lot of telecommunications had big ideas in this area of software and hardware development.

Itola Author

is an Attorney and Entrepreneur from the Silicon Valley.
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