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Apple hit with visual voicemail patent lawsuit

updated 03:45 pm EST, Mon December 3, 2007

Visual voicemail lawsuit

Apple has been hit with yet another lawsuit concerning the design and implementation of the iPhone. Klausner Technologies, a company that claims to be the inventor of the modern PDA, is suing Apple for $360 million over patents 5,572,576 and 5,283,818, which allegedly describe functionality used by the iPhone's visual voicemail feature. The firm is also suing Comcast, eBay and Cablevision under the same guise. Klausner has already licensed these patents to AOL, Vonage and others. The crux of the suit holds that Apple violated Klausner's patents by allowing users to selectively retrieve voice messages via an inbox-type display.

A press release from Klausner notes that the filed by the California law firm of Dovel & Luner in a federal court in the Eastern District of Texas. "We have litigated this patent successfully on two prior occasions," said Greg Dovel of Dovel & Luner, counsel for Klausner Technologies. "With the signing of each new licensee, we continue to receive further confirmation of the strength of our visual voicemail patents."

Klausner further claims that Apple's original PDA, the Newton, was, in fact, covered under an OEM patent license granted by Judah Klausner over twenty years ago: US Patent 4,117,542.

Apple has filed for a number of iPhone-related patents, including one for the multitouch keyboard, two for design and trademark, movable interfaces and more. The company has also faced a series of non-patent related iPhone suits, including one that claims the company deliberately misled consumers as to the practical costs of the iPhone.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. l008com

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    me too!

    years ago, I patented "my electronic device showing me images on my screen"

    I'm going to sue EVERYONE.

  1. unity@mac.com

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    God...

    The US patent system sucks. Since when can you patent an idea. It SHOULD be that you get a patent and need to come to market with your OWN product within X number of years of the patent is reversed and granted to the next applicant. This would help with these patent squatters.

    And there needs to be better protection of natural progression. E-mail lets you select what you want to read so why not "audio e-mails". Thats all VVM is anyway, e-mail recordings sent to the phone in an IMAP style.

  1. russellb

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    c***

    Apple advertised visual voicemail ages ago .. strange how they waited for the Iphone to become a blazing success before filing.

    Exactly I can come up with a patent to fly to the moon does not mean I have a hope in h*** of doing it ...

    Patents on things like this are way way to vague and should not be allowed

  1. legacyb4

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    What about Microsoft?

    They've got a big initiative with the whole slew of Office products and their back-end Communication infrastructure of which one of the features is voicemail by email so you can selectively listen to messages...

  1. slur

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    the patents fail the test

    If indeed this patent covers the implementation of such an obvious and unoriginal idea, then the patent system is broken. A patent should be required to outline the specific details of a reference implementation, and it should cover the unique details of the design. In other words, I can patent a specially designed hair brush, but I can't patent the concept of a hair brush, because the idea exists in nature - use your fingers, a fish skeleton.

    Any inventor who thinks first of all that they're contributing something useful by fencing in the obvious, and second of all who could seriously take any pride in enforcing such a patent is little more than a charlatan.

    On first look it seems like the suit is specious on its face.

    Look at the first patent http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?TERM1=5572576&Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=0&f=S&l=50

    It covers a system in which the caller's identities are stored in a database on the remote server at the phone company end. This is clearly very distinct from the system used by Apple and AT&T. In Apple/ATT's system the numbers are stored at the phone company end along with the voicemail, which is normal behavior, and the voicemail system simply sends the telephone numbers to the iPhone. The iPhone does the job of identifying the callers and presenting a caller list from its own address book database.

    This patent clearly does not apply to the iPhone.

    What about the second patent? http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?TERM1=5283818&Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=0&f=S&l=50

    Well this is closer. It covers a system with "codes and personal information previously entered into the [phone's] memory" that are used to present the list of callers. This might have been a very complex idea in 1994 before computers that could run a UNIX were small enough to be added to phones, but the iPhone's voicemail interface has come about through the natural adaptation of standard interface paradigms to a wireless communication service.

    So, it could be argued that natural law has obviated the patent, but there's a more glaring problem with the patent.

    The specific details of the interface involve "entering DTMF signals into the telephone which are recognized, recorded and processed by the TAD" - the TAD being a separate or integrated computer with stored caller information. You don't send Dualtone Modulated Frequency signals (http://www.genave.com/dtmf.htm) anywhere in the iPhone to communicate with the TAD. You tap a button on the screen and the software runs, dials up AT&T (not via DTMF!), receives your voicemail information (not via DTMF!), and displays your list of callers, times, etc., and yes you can look them up in the address book, which is indeed a database stored on the phone. You'll see their FAX number too.

    These patents

  1. slur

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    the patents fail (part 2)

    . . . (continued from previous entry)

    These patents are submarine patents at best at this point. The various software and communication components that have merged in the iPhone in an inevitable way.

    One sure test that a patent is bad is this: Would the manufacturer (Apple) need to do contortions in order to avoid crossing your patent? Would they have to follow other than their natural development process and style, make choices other than state of the art?

    If so, your patent is a piece of s**t and harms innovation. It's time to let it go.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Evidence

    How much more evidence do we need that the patent system is broken, captured, corrupt? Ron Paul is currently calling for a return to founding Constitutional principals, and receiving a lot of money and support in the process. Perhaps we should consider a return to the Founders' view of copy-write and patents as well? The protections those systems offered where not intended to enrich corporations or to provide endless streams of revenue. Rather instead they were designed to merely ensure that goods offering value to society were protected just long enough to reach the marketplace and recover their investment. Read history; it is enlightening.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Re: god...

    The US patent system sucks. Since when can you patent an idea.

    Um, since patent 0000001.

    It SHOULD be that you get a patent and need to come to market with your OWN product within X number of years of the patent is reversed and granted to the next applicant. This would help with these patent squatters.

    Maybe this sounds too obvious, but one of the reasons for patenting ideas/inventions is to give one time to actually develop it into a real product. Maybe they're still working on perfecting their system and Apple and eBay and others stole the ideas because they had other products further down the pipeline.

    Of course, one other thing one can do with a patent is to license it to others for them to use it, which this company has also done. That, plus the past successful litigations, surely will help their cause.

    Some ideas might be brilliant, but unless you've got the capital to actually fund the project yourself, should you just say "Oh well, let some big company use this to make even more money. There's no reason for me to hold onto it because I won't be able to really milk it for all it's worth".

    But what does it matter. Apple will be hiring patent law expert 'slur' and this will be thrown out in no time.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Re: c***

    Apple advertised visual voicemail ages ago .. strange how they waited for the Iphone to become a blazing success before filing.

    Ages ago? The iPhone was announced in January, not 1999 or something. And it wasn't released until June. That means they've spent five months to investigate the issue, verify the patent against the implementation, get in discussions with Apple, and finally sue. In fact, it's been quite quick. Most of the time it takes a couple of years before the suits come out (take that latest iPod suit from the last month or two).

    And you should really cut down on the hyperbole. The iPhone is not a 'blazing' success. It has sold (and all we know is one quarter's worth of sales stats). Again on the iPod suit, they waited until THAT was a blazing success before suing, thus making sure they could maximize their extortion....er....justified awards.

    Exactly I can come up with a patent to fly to the moon does not mean I have a hope in h*** of doing it ...

    Patents on things like this are way way to vague and should not be allowed

  1. Loren

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    ideas are not patentable

    What corporations and their IP legal departments fight over are first embodiments-- actual plans anyone skilled enough can build from-- which are new, useful, unobvious, or significant improvements over prior art in technology.

    Don't blame the patent system for corporate legal.

    Appl may be able to defend its VV embodiment as unovious or a significant improvement if they can't prove originality.

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