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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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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.

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