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Klausner Technologies seeks to milk money out of Apple, and in a seperate suit out of Comcast, Cablevision Systems, and eBay's Skype

What is lauded by many users as one of the iPhone's hottest features has just landed the electronics giant in some hot legal waters

TIME magazine's invention of the year, just landed one of the bigger patent infringement suits of the year.  Klausner Technologies has filed suit against Apple claiming the giant infringed on its patent for visual voicemail, and is seeking $360M in compensation and damages. 

Klausner holds U.S. patents 5,572,576 and 5,283,818.  The patents basically describe a system that allows for visual retrieval and sorting of voicemail via a display.  The patents certainly sound like they would cover any visual voicemail setup, which likely is making Apple pretty nervous.

The plaintiff cites Apple's states that visual voicemail is "one of the greatest advances in the history of mankind ... without question" and yet is shorting the inventor on royalties.

Various other companies have already paid Klausner Technologies to license these patents, including Time Warner's AOL, which features the technology in its AOL Voicemail service.  Vonage also pays to use the technology in its Voicemail Plus service.

Apple and AT&T refused to make immediate comments on the lawsuit.

The suit was filed by
California law firm of Dovel & Luner in a federal court in the Eastern District of Texas.  Klausner also attacked Comcast's Digital Voice Voicemail, Cablevision Systems' Optimum Voicemail, and Ebay's Skype, filing a separate lawsuit in the same court, on the same day.  The second suit cites infringement on the same patents and seeks from the group of infringers a barely lighter $300M.

Klausner Technologies is an avid patent seeker, and was founded by Judah Klausner who invented and patented the PDA and electronic organizer.  Judah owns the legendary U.S. patent  4,117,542 which covers these devices.  He licensed his PDA patent under an OEM license to Apple so that Apple could develop its Newton PDA, which became the archetype for many PDAs to come.  Klausner's new company has oft been compared to licenser NTP for its aggressive patent mongering -- though in Klausner's defense, he has singularly come up with a large portion of the ideas.

Now Apple, who once enjoyed happy times with Klausner celebrating Newtons in the 90s, faces its former friend as an enemy in court.  Unfortunately for Apple, Klausner is just one legal enemy of its much maligned iPhone.  Apple is facing class action suits for its iBricking and "monopolistic behavior", suits over the iPhones battery, an environmental lawsuit from activist organization Greenpeace, and complaints of iFires.

Hopefully Apple's astronomical iPhone sales and energetic growth can keep pace with its mounting legal bills.

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Wait what?
By FITCamaro on 12/4/2007 1:09:21 PM , Rating: 4
A single patent covers all devices that are PDA like in nature? Isn't that like patenting the automobile?

RE: Wait what?
By JasonMick on 12/4/2007 1:18:58 PM , Rating: 3
Well of course now there are many patents for different design/features/aspects/services of PDAs. But Klausner is pretty cool in that he invented the idea and was the first one to get a patent on it, and by far, got the most general patent on it, which put a lot of cash in his pocket.

Remember, when the automobile was invented there wasn't as aggressive patent seeking as there is now. If the auto was invented now, everyone and their brother would be racing to patent it. My money would be on NTP getting the patent ;)

RE: Wait what?
By Wightout on 12/4/2007 4:09:25 PM , Rating: 3
I dont really know what the idea of patenting ambition has to do with anything here. If the system isn't working to benefit inventors and further technology then I think it should be changed. The idea that someone can make a business out of filing patents and suing people who come up with a similar idea is just plain stupid.

I think it was IBM who is currently trying to Patent patenting. This whole thing is just stupid.

My personal opinion is that you should not be given a patent on an idea, until you are making it into a reality. Patenting an idea is just absurd.

I should go out and start patenting housemaid type robots, moving sidewalks, and pneumatic people movers, not to mention every other thing i saw in the Jetsons.

Most of these patents have a less detailed dwg then the dwgs of X-Wings and Tie Fighters from the Star Wars books that have the guts and inside mechanisms all defined and laid out... le sigh.

just my $0.02 and then some...

RE: Wait what?
By Connoisseur on 12/4/2007 4:30:59 PM , Rating: 2
I work with some financial people who deal with IP (intellectual property) theft. They mostly analyze the market and calculate damages based on several factors. While you can technically file a patent and then sue someone for violating it, the damages are based on a few items such as:
1) Intention for the original patent inventor to build/license the patent. if the inventor just sat on his patent while someone else put all the R&D and manufacturing time into developing another tool, the inventor won't get as much
2) Determining whether or not the violator intentionally side stepped the patent
3) Availability and ease of applying alternative workarounds to the patent
4) Market share of the product the patent is used in

Bottom line is that $360 mil is probably just a starting point. It should go down a decent bit depending on how good apple's lawyers are.

RE: Wait what?
By Treckin on 12/4/2007 6:41:37 PM , Rating: 3
My personal opinion is that you should not be given a patent on an idea, until you are making it into a reality. Patenting an idea is just absurd.


That defies the entire point of the patent system, which is to allow the 'little guy' some defense against the huge manufacturing potential of the large corporations.

Although now, what we get is the damn capitalizing of the IP market, as it costs thousands and thousands of dollars to get comprehensive patent coverage on an idea. Essentially, large IP law firms are undoing the original intent of the entire system.

Im going through this right now-- I developed a poppet-valveless cylinder head for ICE's, but it will cost me somewhere around 20,000 dollars to file for comprehensive coverage.

All i can do is sit and prey.

RE: Wait what?
By theapparition on 12/5/2007 8:35:42 AM , Rating: 3
Treckin's completely correct.

As a holder of over a dozen patents myself, I can attest to the cost required to file and defend them, something the average "little guy" can't do. Many of my original designs are no longer "mine", because to make them into reality, I had to shop the idea around to companies willing to implement them, and sell them the designs, effectively removing all ownership and future royalties. At that point in my life, there was no financial way I could have backed them myself. However, I've taken that money, and used it to back other inventions and start my own company.

While my company specializes in engineering design solutions and has quite a few patents, they are all for active designs. Companies that purchase IP, just for the sake of potential future infringements disgust me. Plain and simple.

Now, you can still protect yourself from future infringements/lawsuits. The key is documentation. If you can prove that you originally came up with the idea before the patent holder, the patent can get invalidated. Once again, have deep pockets and be prepared for a fight, something that the "little guy" may not be able to do.

If you ever look up the story of Dyson, you'll find that he was just an inventor. He thought of a way to make a vacuum without bags. He approached several vendors, and all scoffed at him due to the recurring income of bags they brought in (sound like ink cartridges???). He still thought it was a good idea, and tried to make it himself. Hoover specifically held everything he did in legal challenges and virtually bankrupted him before finally he finally won. And with that, became one of the largest vacuum manufacturers in the UK in a year. But it was a long road that many wouldn't have the stomach for. For every "Dyson like" success, I bet there's 100 failures.

Now, tell me more about valveless heads..... :P

RE: Wait what?
By Ryanman on 12/9/2007 6:03:46 PM , Rating: 1
My god. The only part of this article I remember is that this "invention" is one of the greatest mankind has ever seen. I've never seen a bigger pile in text my entire life

RE: Wait what?
By helios220 on 12/4/2007 1:36:42 PM , Rating: 2
Well keep in mind that things were quite different when that patent went through. Due to all of the variations of mobile devices these days it does somewhat absurd but at the time of issuance the scope probably didn't seem as wide.

Aside from that, I had a good laugh at the tone of the article as much like many other DT articles regarding Apple it tends to insinuate that Apple is scared/nervous/beaten; facing opposition and attack everywhere it turns. The latter may be true to some extent, but I find it ludicrous to believe that given Apple's previous interactions with Klausner and knowledge of other visual voicemail systems that they were not aware of the possibility of litigation. Most likely they were at least aware of potential litigation and decided that it was worth the risk.

Apple may be facing many lawsuits, but excluding this one in particular most of them are further examples of the dumb 'I can sue anyone for anything!' mentality that we have in America. In this case I wish Klausner luck, I respect the spirit of the inventor and entrepreneur (although I'm not a big fan of patent mongering) and I'm not a giant fan of Apple regardless.

RE: Wait what?
By Oregonian2 on 12/4/2007 1:42:51 PM , Rating: 3
The latter may be true to some extent, but I find it ludicrous to believe that given Apple's previous interactions with Klausner and knowledge of other visual voicemail systems that they were not aware of the possibility of litigation. Most likely they were at least aware of potential litigation and decided that it was worth the risk.

It's probably a given that Apple was "requested" to sign up for royalties long prior to the lawsuit being filed. So they had to have seen this coming.

RE: Wait what?
By Alexstarfire on 12/4/2007 5:27:42 PM , Rating: 3
And the patent system fails again.

Celebrating Newtons?
By daftrok on 12/4/2007 1:32:26 PM , Rating: 3
Um...didn't they suck?

RE: Celebrating Newtons?
By Keeir on 12/4/2007 1:46:48 PM , Rating: 3
Newtons had two main "flaws"

1.) Initial Handwriting Rec. software tried to do too much... like "learn" the users hand writing... When it failed, it created the market perception the software didn't work well (even though through the revisions, newtons had for the time amazing handwriting rec. software that would not be matched for almost 10 years in a commercial product)

2.) Too damned expensive. Newtons were pricey beasts that couldn't do that much. A good comparison is like the UPMCs of today, except even worse... I think many Newtons cost more than 1,000 dollars in the Mid 90s

So if you were a techie with money growing on a tree, the Newton was really a pretty solid peice of technology

RE: Celebrating Newtons?
By daftrok on 12/4/2007 2:13:12 PM , Rating: 2
And no PC connectivity.

RE: Celebrating Newtons?
By Keeir on 12/4/2007 2:51:26 PM , Rating: 2
And no PC connectivity.

Can't remember if it connected to Windows systems but even connecting to Apple systems required additional hardware and software not typically bundled with the Newton.... I am lead to believe it was actually not that hard of the desktop connection... just yet again additional expense and time fiddling with a gadget...

RE: Celebrating Newtons?
By Omega215D on 12/4/2007 3:52:28 PM , Rating: 4
Beat Up Martin

Eat Up Martha

Land of the free, home of the left behind
By Bioniccrackmonk on 12/4/2007 1:51:01 PM , Rating: 4
Our patent office has to be the most absurd entity to ever exsist. Since when did vague and general ideas hold rein over actual products. If this keeps up, the USA will fall far behind the rest of the world due in technology due to lawsuits from people who patented the basic principle, not the actual means to make it happen, and then sue the companies that invent a way to make it work. Seriously pathetic.

Personally, I just filed a patent for anything that makes life easier on mankind. I should start receiving royalty checks soon.

By TimTheEnchanter25 on 12/4/2007 3:01:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I agree that that a lot of these lawsuits are based on overly vague patents.

I love how the patent holder always claims that the company they are suing stole their idea. Like it is impossible for someone at Apple to come up with the same idea that they did.

It's entriely possible that someone at Apple was searching for iphone ideas on the patent website, but I doubt it.

It is impressive that they came up with the idea for this patent back in 1996 though. It isn't that amazing of an idea today, but it would've been back then.

By Keeir on 12/4/2007 3:12:17 PM , Rating: 2
It is impressive that they came up with the idea for this patent back in 1996 though. It isn't that amazing of an idea today, but it would've been back then.

Not really. It is a simple extension of the idea that people could make video phone calls. I mean, in 1992 I believe ATT was selling Videophones to the general public (expensive and you needed 2 of the same model). What the "inventor" had the foresight to realize was that although current technology couldn't produce a consumer device that acted as a video answering machine, the technology would catch up quickly and the patent would be worth something...

RE: Land of the free, home of the left behind
By daniyarm on 12/5/2007 1:10:35 AM , Rating: 2
Are you saying ideas aren't patentable? Sure they are. That's why all those other companies licensed visual voicemail from this guy. They need to get sued for taking all the ideas other people came up with, put them together and advertise as their own. And so they can stop pretending to care about their customers and then screw them over along with AT&T. Seriously, half the technology inside the iPod and iPhone is not theirs. Even the interface that made iPod popular is Creatives design. Apple is great at repackaging other peoples ideas and trying to sell them as their own.

By Bioniccrackmonk on 12/5/2007 1:20:27 PM , Rating: 2
Are you saying ideas aren't patentable?

That is exactly what I am saying. Just because someone thinks up something doesnt mean they should get a patent for it, unless the patent itself is a breakdown of how to make the item and how it works. General and vague ideas have no place in the patent office and the only purpose they serve is so the person can sue a company once that company puts in the R&D to make it work. Crap like this will cause companies to hire lawyers to go through patents 10 - 20 years old to make sure some chump didn't patent a basic idea that wasn't feasible at the time so they don't get sued when they release a product that actually makes use of it.

Now, I don't know what your problem is with Apple, as my post was only about the US Patent Office and the bs patents they issue, but for some reason you feel Apple is the only company in the world who makes use of other people's patents in their products.

By cohcoh on 12/4/2007 2:37:25 PM , Rating: 3
The listbox is a generic, standard display component. Assigning dynamic to it is its primary use. Essentially, this patent suggests that any application that displays dynamic data assigned to a gui component is committing infringmenet.

This is patent is sheer insanity.

RE: listbox
By mcnabney on 12/4/2007 3:48:40 PM , Rating: 2
Most of them are now. Patents should require a working model or documents showing specifics. The worst case I recall was Amazon's OneClick patent. No one else can create a website in which one mouse click buys something...

By GlennAl on 12/4/2007 5:43:14 PM , Rating: 2
I really should have patented the personal computer back in 1971 when I first dreamed it up. Doh!

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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