Print 23 comment(s) - last by Ryanman.. on Dec 9 at 6:03 PM

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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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

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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