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Apple, AT&T sued over iPhone's Visual Voicemail feature

post #1 of 70
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Apple and AT&T on Monday were hit with a hefty patent infringement lawsuit from Klausner Technologies, which charges the pair with treading on patented technology by offering Visual Voicemail service to iPhone customers.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in the Eastern District of Texas, asserts that sales of that iPhone, Visual Voicemail and other visual voice messaging services implemented by AT&T infringe Klausners U.S. Patents 5,572,576 and 5,283,818.

Klausner is seeking damages and future royalties estimated at $360 million.

Owned by a group of private investors, the firm has successfully defended and then licensed the same patents to other industry heavyweights that provide visual voicemail services, including Time Warners AOL for its AOL Voicemail services and Vonage Holdings for its Vonage Voicemail Plus services.

In the latest suit, Klausner specifically alleges that the iPhone violates its intellectual property rights by allowing users to selectively retrieve voice messages via the iPhones 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."

Separately on Monday, Klausner also filed similar claims against Comcast Corporation, Cablevision Systems Corp. and eBay Inc.s Skype with damages and future royalties estimated at $300 million.

In that case, Klausners alleges that Cablevisions Optimum Voicemail, Comcasts Digital Voice Voicemail and eBays Skype Voicemail each violate intellectual property rights by allowing users to selectively retrieve and listen to voice messages via message inbox displays.
post #2 of 70
I'm curious about AT&T's non-iPhone visual voicemail services. I hadn't heard of them. If they already existed before the iPhone then that certainly would have given Apple reason to want to work with AT&T.
post #3 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

I'm curious about AT&T's non-iPhone visual voicemail services. I hadn't heard of them. If they already existed before the iPhone then that certainly would have given Apple reason to want to work with AT&T.

I believe the other "Visual Voicemail" might be non-related to cell phones, for example AT&T's VOIP phone systems (much as these guys are also suing cable companies over VOIP "visual voicemail").
post #4 of 70
It seems to me like the way to make it rich these days is invent something and patent it. You don't have to create it or produce it, you just have to know how to patent it. Then wait for someone else to make it and sue them.

All these stupid things I think up that I don't know how to make I'm just going to patent. Sooner or later someone will create it and I'll be rich.
post #5 of 70
ahahah i swear... we are undoing ourselves while the Asian manufacturers kick our collective dum-basses, laughing all the way to the tech bank.
post #6 of 70
To many greedy people in the world.
post #7 of 70
How can that be patented at all? I know at least 3 different analogue and ISDN modems from 3 different companies from 1994/1995 that came with "visual voicemail" software - it is a simple list of caller IDs and voice recordings... just putting same on a server and the interface on a mobile cannot make that a new invention. This whole patent thing is getting more and more ridiculous.
post #8 of 70
Here's hoping Apple had some strategy concerning these patents as they were developing the iPhone. I kind of scanned the patents and they seem very general mostly talking about what visual voicemail should be doing, but not much about the technical aspects or programming needed to accomplish it. Maybe Apple has some interesting technical information that may break these patents. (shrug) Otherwise these patent squatters will get that much more wealthy.
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post #9 of 70
People mad at others for making life more simple.

For shame.
post #10 of 70
So basically you're implying that while Klausner Technologies invented the technology and spent thousands of dollars patenting it, they should just let AT&T have it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ckollars View Post

To many greedy people in the world.
post #11 of 70
That's why 50% profit on the iPhone is not really 50%. You'll see many more lawsuits popping-up in the near future.

I don't know how our spineless patent-office could approve such basic common-sense patents.
post #12 of 70
agreed. sitting on patents w/o development is almost deplorable. if you come up with an idea, make it dummy! at least there will be a product/feature to sell...

anyway I don't think visual voice mail should be a patentable commodity. it seems like more of an evolutionary feature. like cable channel guides, email and umm... voice mail.
post #13 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

So basically you're implying that while Klausner Technologies invented the technology and spent thousands of dollars patenting it, they should just let AT&T have it?

Klausner did not invent anything, they were lucky enough to be awarded such a simplistic common-sense idea. it's like patenting hand soap, "a liquid to clean your hands"
post #14 of 70
And had you invented that common-sense, billion dollar hand soap idea that every household and company uses, and someone decided they were going to use it instead without paying you anything, you would be on one hell of a journey in the courts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by suhail View Post

Klausner did not invent anything, they were lucky enough to be awarded such a simplistic common-sense idea. it's like patenting hand soap, "a liquid to clean your hands"
post #15 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post

How can that be patented at all? I know at least 3 different analogue and ISDN modems from 3 different companies from 1994/1995 that came with "visual voicemail" software - it is a simple list of caller IDs and voice recordings... just putting same on a server and the interface on a mobile cannot make that a new invention. This whole patent thing is getting more and more ridiculous.

This patent was filed in 1992.
post #16 of 70
I'm all for patents but this is nonsense. It's about as close as patenting an idea as you can get and still get the certificate.

If you read the patent, it's like patenting the idea of writing: marks on paper that represent words.
post #17 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

And had you invented that common-sense, billion dollar hand soap idea that every household and company uses, and someone decided they were going to use it instead without paying you anything, you would be on one hell of a journey in the courts.

You're still not hearing what he's saying. He's suggesting that if you DON'T actually invent a product from your patent, then you should NOT be given the patent. So sure if he invented the hand soap then yes he should fight it out in court. If he only patented the idea and never made hand soap then he's a squatter.
post #18 of 70
This would be comical were it not so stupid. The patents claim a "means for providing" visual voicemail, not visual voicemail itself. You can hardly get a patent for an idea like "review messages out of sequence arbitrarily", but you can patent an electronic mechanism for downloading and displaying messages in a certain way that allows it. Unless Apple copied some software downloading protocol, this suit isn't going anywhere.
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post #19 of 70
Ok can understand, but that is a horrible business idea. If they didn't patent it, then someone else would have. That's like having a winning lottery ticket and not cashing it in because they are too many rich people in the world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lantzn View Post

You're still not hearing what he's saying. He's suggesting that if you DON'T actually invent a product from your patent, then you should NOT be given the patent. So sure if he invented the hand soap then yes he should fight it out in court. If he only patented the idea and never made hand soap then he's a squatter.
post #20 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by crees! View Post

This patent was filed in 1992.

But they didn't defend their patent for 15 years, so they lost it long ago.
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post #21 of 70
Not certain, but it seems to me that the infringing is happening on at&t's side, not Apple's side.

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post #22 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by e1618978 View Post

But they didn't defend their patent for 15 years, so they lost it long ago.

Trademarks can be lost by non-defense, but I don't think patents can be.
post #23 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by e1618978 View Post

But they didn't defend their patent for 15 years, so they lost it long ago.

doesn't the article say they defended it twice - successfully, too.

it's definitely a patentable idea.

i'm too lazy to go thru all the claims, but at least one base claim in the '576 patent differs from visual voicemail in that it claims the message is stored on the remote answering device, not the user controlled one. given that storing the message on the user controlled device (the phone) should be patently distinct (offers immediate retrieval without need for any connections) ... maybe apple could be ok?

it's a tough one. there's a lot of claims here. lol.
post #24 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by noriyori View Post

anyway I don't think visual voice mail should be a patentable commodity. it seems like more of an evolutionary feature. like cable channel guides, email and umm... voice mail.

Ditto... or liquid handsoap
post #25 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Not certain, but it seems to me that the infringing is happening on at&t's side, not Apple's side.

That depends... The patent includes both a telephone answering device (I interpret that as living in AT&T's data server farm), as well as a "user remote access device" (I interpret that as living inside the iPhone).

So if the patent is upheld (no matter how disagreeable some of us may find that notion), then there may be plenty of opportunities to identify infringement on all sides.
post #26 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

And had you invented that common-sense, billion dollar hand soap idea that every household and company uses, and someone decided they were going to use it instead without paying you anything, you would be on one hell of a journey in the courts.

Simple, Apple apply a self imposed injunction on "Visual Voicemail", pay a small "tread on someone elses toes" fee, rewrite iPhone software firmware update to include my suggestion free of charge. Instead of going through the list of voice mail messages in a first come, first heard order, I freely give you authority to implement my idea (non patented, of course) to listen to voice mail messages last received, first heard.

Just like Steve said, who wants to have to go through seven messages just to hear message eight. Set up voice mail so you hear message eight first and then allow it, if you want to hear them, play messages seven, six, five, etc.

I personally always want to hear my most recent messages left me and then review older messages.

There you go Apple, and call it something like "Recent Voicemails" so you won't get sued for the term "Visual Vociemail". PROBLEM SOLVED!

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post #27 of 70
The patent system could not have always worked this way.

I can understand a company uses its resources to create a product. It is unfair for a rival to blatantly benefit from a product without having risked or invested any of its resources into its development.

But no one person or company has all the answers. Over time other people add their own ideas improving the original product. That is how we have gotten to where we are now.

I cannot see the value of a company patenting an idea where their is no intent to actually make a product from that idea. They sit and wait for those who actually have the skill and talent to make a product from that idea and ambush them with a suit.

That cannot be the way it has always worked. It is pure insanity.
post #28 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by jawporta View Post

It seems to me like the way to make it rich these days is invent something and patent it. You don't have to create it or produce it, you just have to know how to patent it. Then wait for someone else to make it and sue them.

All these stupid things I think up that I don't know how to make I'm just going to patent. Sooner or later someone will create it and I'll be rich.

I'd love that, too. Problem is, these days it costs something like $10K to $30K to patent something if you want the patent to be foolproof. The lawyers have you by the short 'n' curlies. And that's to say nothing of the R&D layout. Takes $$ to make $$.

-K
post #29 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

The patent system could not have always worked this way.

I can understand a company uses its resources to create a product. It is unfair for a rival to blatantly benefit from a product without having risked or invested any of its resources into its development.

But no one person or company has all the answers. Over time other people add their own ideas improving the original product. That is how we have gotten to where we are now.

I cannot see the value of a company patenting an idea where their is no intent to actually make a product from that idea. They sit and wait for those who actually have the skill and talent to make a product from that idea and ambush them with a suit.

That cannot be the way it has always worked. It is pure insanity.

In a world that rewards greed (capitalism), is this so surprising?
What I want to know is if patents are meant to incite progress, why are you able to take action that imposes an obstacle on progress. And 15 years? That's way way too long to hold an 'idea' (so f'ing obvious at this point)
Patents are retarded, you describe a way of doing things and hold the legal right to that way of doing things??? There is nothing as immoral as that, I mean didn't their moms tell them to share?
post #30 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienzed View Post

There is nothing as immoral as that, I mean didn't their moms tell them to share?

Cookies, maybe, but did mom demand their kids give away the house too?
post #31 of 70
Some of the ideas seem very similar to Apple's PowerTalk back in the 90s with System 7...
post #32 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienzed View Post

In a world that rewards greed (capitalism), is this so surprising?
What I want to know is if patents are meant to incite progress, why are you able to take action that imposes an obstacle on progress. And 15 years? That's way way too long to hold an 'idea' (so f'ing obvious at this point)
Patents are retarded, you describe a way of doing things and hold the legal right to that way of doing things??? There is nothing as immoral as that, I mean didn't their moms tell them to share?

I would be willing to bet (Unless you live on a farm away from society which using this forum on a computer of some type kinda rules that out) you have a job working for a company that makes enough money from "Capitalism" to pay your paycheck.

Patents do not put up an obstacle towards progress. They protect a companies or individuals trying to produce an innovative product from being ripped off by other companies. This in turn generates profits via "Capitalism" and hence your paycheck so you can afford to purchase a computer (You bad little consumer helping to propagate "Capitalism") to post on this forum that "Capitalism" = greed and bad.

Grow up and get off the soapbox. Lead by example and get rid of all your products that are a direct result of "Capitalism" and then you have moral high ground to preach to everyone else.
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post #33 of 70
It's not "Visual Voicemail", it's "Audio Email".

Lawsuit dismissed.
post #34 of 70
At least upon a cursory reading of the patent applications, the technology relies upon the caller entering DTMF codes--i.e., the caller must identify themselves by manually entering touch-tones on their telephone keyboard. The iPhone uses CallerID instead, so I don't see how Klausner expects to make a strong case against Apple. It will all come down to what was explicitly stated in the Claims.

As an aside, IANAL, but people commenting here are showing a high degree of naivety about the patent system, why it was created and how it works. It doesn't matter whether a patent holder waits 1 year or 15 years to defend itself or whether they ever produce a product of their own. The primary purpose of the patent system is to disseminate novel ideas, rather than have people maintain them in confidence as trade secrets and perhaps never see the light of day. In exchange for publicizing their ideas, inventors receive patent protection for a period of time: the right to exclude others from utilizing the idea without first obtaining a license.
post #35 of 70
You guys all own me $1,000,000,000,000 because I patented the ability to read your emails out of order!

This is just stupid, the one case I support communism on.
post #36 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by jawporta View Post

It seems to me like the way to make it rich these days is invent something and patent it. You don't have to create it or produce it, you just have to know how to patent it. Then wait for someone else to make it and sue them.

All these stupid things I think up that I don't know how to make I'm just going to patent. Sooner or later someone will create it and I'll be rich.

I'm going to patent the act of submitting a patent and sue everybody who owns a patent.

I agree with you to an extent that people shouldn't be able to patent ideas unless they have had some practical implementation. But I think they should be given a time limit in case they want to protect something that definitely will be developed in the near future. It certainly needs to be more strict.

It's the same with people who buy up website names waiting for big companies to want to buy the URL. As long as people are lazy and want to get rich quick (and I'm sure that includes most of us actually) these kind of things will continue to happen.
post #37 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foo2 View Post

As an aside, IANAL, but people commenting here are showing a high degree of naivety about the patent system

Climb down off that high horse. Your comments appear no more or less informed than the average post in this thread.

Patent law isn't cut and dry and neither are the various perspectives on it from around the globe.

Posts here make much more sense when you realize that half of them are evaluating the patent on moral level while the other half are coming at the topic from a legal perspective.
post #38 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by reallynotnick View Post

You guys all own me $1,000,000,000,000 because I patented the ability to read your emails out of order!

This is just stupid, the one case I support communism on.

Actually, if you patented it 15 years before email was invented, you will be worth at least 1B. However, 1T is a little out of line.
post #39 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by dfiler View Post

Climb down off that high horse. Your comments appear no more or less informed than the average post in this thread.

Patent law isn't cut and dry and neither are the various perspectives on it from around the globe.

Posts here make much more sense when you realize that half of them are evaluating the patent on moral level while the other half are coming at the topic from a legal perspective.

I beg to differ. Apparently unlike most everyone else commenting here, I made at least a cursory examination of the patent applications in question and know the content of the applications--and the Claims in particular--will be most relevant to the plaintiff and defendants' cases. Did you read them?

Perhaps you'd like to enlighten us as to what "perspectives from around the globe" have to do with a U.S. legal case and what morals might have to do with the patent law here.
post #40 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by broadbean View Post

Some of the ideas seem very similar to Apple's PowerTalk back in the 90s with System 7...

Oh, stop, you are making Apple look worse....

PowerTalk was introduced in 1993 with System 7 Pro.
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