Apple, eBay And AT&T All Give In On Visual Voicemail Patents

from the sad-to-hear dept

The reason patent hoarding firms are often successful in getting companies to pay up has little to do with the quality of their patents, but the fact that fighting these lawsuits out in court is so very expensive and time consuming. It's often much easier and cheaper to just settle. Klausner Technologies has been very successful in getting companies to pay up for daring to use the concept of "visual voicemail." Klausner for years has basically claimed ownership to any sort of "visual" phone info, such as the time it sued AOL for daring to display caller ID info on your screen -- something that clearly no one would have ever thought of if not for Klausner's patent. AOL just settled rather than deal with the mess of fighting it. Ditto for a similar lawsuit against Vonage. The latest trio to settle up are Apple, eBay and AT&T. With Apple and AT&T the lawsuit was over the visual voicemail feature found on the iPhone -- guess all those patents Steve Jobs hyped up didn't protect it from patent lawsuits.

So now Klausner has even more money to go after others (Comcast and Cablevision are listed as targets) -- and it will use the fact that all these big name companies settled as "evidence" that its patents are valid, even if the only thing it really means is that companies did the math and realized it's cheaper to settle. Even the press is falling for this false claim. News.com notes that Apple, AT&T and eBay probably would have lost because AOL and Vonage licensed the patent. That's not at all true. Both companies settled because it was cheaper and easier, rather than due to any acknowledgment that the patents are valid. The fact that some firms settle have no bearing on whether or not other companies could have won in court.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2008 @ 7:08pm

    I presume you have someone on the inside of each company who is spoon-feeding you information because there is no way to know for sure what is going through the minds of the companies who are taking licenses. If you have no such insider, then it looks as if you are engaging in pure speculation.

    I am not at all sure why you call Mr. Klausner and his co-inventors patent hoarders, thus suggesting he and his colleagues are somehow unworthy people. He and others invented items over the course of many years, companies appear (at least to the patentees) to be using one or more of his many inventions, and he is asserting what is his right under law...to have them either take a license or challenge the patent(s). Regarding challenging the patents, there are procedures available to the alleged infringers that are a small fraction of the cost of litigation. Most companies do have the good sense to review asserted patents to determine if an infringement issue exists, to ascertain the likely validity of such patents, and to proceed accordingly. Your comments suggest that these large corporations are not inclined to examine the patents, and instead shrug their shoulders and say "How much will the license cost?" Businesses do not work this way.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Thane, Jun 17th, 2008 @ 7:10pm

    Fight fire with fire...

    I think one should patent a business model of "Collection questionable patents for the sole purpose of suing companies that may utilize said obvious idea".

    Then sue the patent hoarders.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2008 @ 8:15pm

    Live by the sword, die by the sword.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jun 17th, 2008 @ 8:21pm

    Re:

    "I presume you have someone on the inside of each company who is spoon-feeding you"

    Right dude

    Mike is just a shill for those patent "fairness" corporations, tirelessly promoting their anti-"patent troll" rethorics among the techdirt lemming population

    Good job Mikey

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    IanK, Jun 17th, 2008 @ 9:22pm

    If I had a massive tech company, I'd rather face them in court and have these companies lose. I think that if this actually went to court, the patent hoarders may lose because, personally, I'm sure even the judges realize how ridiculous tech patents have become, and what a mistake they are. By just giving in, they're just giving these patent companies money, while they never have to spend a lot of money in court. If these companies lose often enough to big tech companies, maybe all this madness would be deemed "unprofitable", or at least not profitable enough to make it worth the effort.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    chaosgasket, Jun 17th, 2008 @ 9:22pm

    Re:

    I am not at all sure why you call Mr. Klausner and his co-inventors patent hoarders, thus suggesting he and his colleagues are somehow unworthy people. He and others invented items over the course of many years, companies appear (at least to the patentees) to be using one or more of his many inventions, and he is asserting what is his right under law...to have them either take a license or challenge the patent(s). Regarding challenging the patents, there are procedures available to the alleged infringers that are a small fraction of the cost of litigation. Most companies do have the good sense to review asserted patents to determine if an infringement issue exists, to ascertain the likely validity of such patents, and to proceed accordingly. Your comments suggest that these large corporations are not inclined to examine the patents, and instead shrug their shoulders and say "How much will the license cost?" Businesses do not work this way.

    This message has been brought to you by the legal department of Klausner Technologies. Remember, if it doesn't say Klausner, it just means we haven't sued them yet.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2008 @ 9:39pm

    Re: Re:

    Have you even read any of the patents and taken the time to determine what they cover? It is so easy to express opinions without any facts, which pretty well sums up the value of such opinions.

    By the way, guys like Klausner to not invent things and then lie in wait to sue someone. Some of his work was done in the early 90's, and almost certainly he approached companies to try and strike mutually beneficial business deals. In all likelihood, if history is any indicator, he was uniformly ignored or told to "pound sand...so sue us."

    Yeah, I really "feel" for the companies who blew him off. It seems only appropriate that they are now facing their day of reckoning. They are paying the price for their indifference, and deserve no sympathy.

     

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  8.  
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    Falkirk, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 1:09am

    Not the law

    You said: "So now Klausner has even more money to go after others (Comcast and Cablevision are listed as targets) -- and it will use the fact that all these big name companies settled as "evidence" that its patents are valid."

    Settlements cannot be used as evidence against others in a court of law. Only a court decision could validate a patent.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 6:30am

    Re:

    Hey lemming

    Patents are an integral part of modern high-tech development
    Without patents there would be little invention going on and absolutely no public disclosure
    Plus, companies would impose some draconian non-compete agreements on their scientists and engineers

    You'd better read what some serious people like Silicon Valley VCs write, not the shitty blogs like this one

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Willton, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    Re: Not the law

    Settlements cannot be used as evidence against others in a court of law. Only a court decision could validate a patent.

    True, but the existence of such settlements could drive other defendants to settle. It happens in insurance litigation all the time.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Willton, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:01am

    Re:

    If I had a massive tech company, I'd rather face them in court and have these companies lose. I think that if this actually went to court, the patent hoarders may lose because, personally, I'm sure even the judges realize how ridiculous tech patents have become, and what a mistake they are. By just giving in, they're just giving these patent companies money, while they never have to spend a lot of money in court. If these companies lose often enough to big tech companies, maybe all this madness would be deemed "unprofitable", or at least not profitable enough to make it worth the effort.

    RIM had the same mentality as you're showing when they were sued by NTP, and RIM ended up paying out of the nose for their indignance. It's better to actually evaluate the power and scope of the patents at issue and make an informed decision from there than to blindly plow head-first into litigation and unwittingly bring a knife to a gun fight.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:01am

    Re: Re: Not the law

    You correctly use the word "settlements" since these are how most lawsuits are resolved. The problem though is that most of these matters should never have even proceeded to the point that a lawsuit was filed.

    In the majority of similar cases an inventor crafts an article of manufacture/method/etc., and then being without the financial resources to take it to market seeks out other companies to help move the productization process forward. They are honestly trying to strike a "win-win" business deal, with the inventor providing his/her technical expertise and the companies using their manufacturing and marketing skill to introduce a "product" into the marketplace.

    It is a sad fact of life that most companies simply choose to ignore the patentee and, if the invention is deemed meritorious, proceed to incorporate it into their product line. Tell me, if you are the inventor and learn this has happened, is your natural inclination to just go back to the drawing board and invent something else so that the process can repeat itself once more?

    Having observed this process play out more times than I can count, I well understand why an inventor feels he/she is left with little choice but to try and find a "white knight" with the financial resources to take on such companies. It is a shame it comes to this, but it is also important to bear in mind that it is the companies themselves, and not the patentees, who generally create this problem in the first place.

    Sorry, but my sympathies generally lie with the patentees because they are generally the ones who have tried to play by the rules.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Chipster, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:05am

    Pound the sand or sue us

    This is exactly what these companies tell you to do. Not a one will recognize a patent when presented for licensing. There is absolutely no other option than to sue....other than never file for a patent at all. A patent is nothing more than a right to sue if someone has copied or stolen your creations. It certainly does not even remotely guarantee that you will be paid royalties or not be copied.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Mike, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re:

    Patents are an integral part of modern high-tech development

    Other than all of the studies that have shown they're not.... and that they actually tend to hold back high-tech development?

    http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2008/03/do-patents-stim.html

    Without patents there would be little invention going on and absolutely no public disclosure

    Again despite tons of evidence to the contrary?

    http://www.amazon.com/Industrialization-Without-National-Patents-Schiff/dp/0691041970

    Plus, companies would impose some draconian non-compete agreements on their scientists and engineers

    Ignoring, of course, the fact that (at least in California) non-competes are unenforceable.

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071204/005038.shtml

    You'd better read what some serious people like Silicon Valley VCs write, not the shitty blogs like this one

    Such as how much they dislike patents? Let's look and see what people like serious Silicon Valley VCs write:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20051220/015253.shtml
    http://www.techdirt.com/articl es/20060414/0120234.shtml
    http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2005/07/08/one-venture-cap.html
    http://avc.blo gs.com/a_vc/2006/04/patently_absurd.html
    http://www.askthevc.com/blog/archives/2007/11/should-start ups.php
    http://www.feld.com/blog/archives/2006/04/abolish_softwar.html

    Oh look, they hate patents.

    And, why not include some actual evidence showing that, contrary to popular opinion, VCs don't focus on patents:

    http://www.digitalmajority.org/forum/t-13940/study-shows-most-vc-funded-software-startu ps-don-t-patent

    Angry dude, you have a way with words. Tragically, almost all of them are easily proven wrong. We've gone through this before.

    Can I ask a simple question: given all of the evidence we present that you repeatedly ignore -- often followed by personal insults and outright lies -- what would it take for you to admit that you were wrong? What kind of evidence would it take?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 8:14am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Mikey,

    stuff you "studies" up your ass, dude

    They are nothing but shit papers written by clueless morons

    Ask real VCs instead

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    BlatantDisregard, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    so tell us, angry dude, what puts you in a position to know so much about what VCs think about patents? It seems to me you're just upset because you got proven wrong.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    thane, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    There is a purpose and place for patents. The purpose is to allow a company or individual to produce a good and then not have someone "copy" it exactly and make money off of all your R&D and other investment.

    The abuse comes in when someone patents something obvious then lies in wait for someone to make use of the idea and then sues.

    I think the only defensible suit would be one where the plaintiff can show that they are USING THE INVENTION to create income and that the awards should be limited to the potential documented lost income from someone else harnessing your ideas.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Wrong on so many points

    Patents are supposed to encourage public disclosure of new inventions as opposed to trade secrets

    That's all about it: nothing more and nothing less

    Requiring productizing the invention to generate income will undermine the whole purpose of the patent system
    What are all universities supposed to do then ?
    And how can any single inventor with just one patent produce any income if he is facing a consolidated industry cartel trying to take him down ?
    They'll give your stuff away for free so that you won't be able to sell anything

     

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  19.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 18th, 2008 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Wrong on so many points

    Funny you should say that 4 comments after being proven totally wrong on every point you stated earlier... and whose only response is to tell me to stuff the evidence up my ass (classy).

    Angry dude, in order to be taken seriously, when someone presents evidence proving you wrong, you at least need to provide counter evidence.

    Unless, of course, there is none.

    Patents are supposed to encourage public disclosure of new inventions as opposed to trade secrets

    Nope. It's a nice thought, but it's simply not true. Patents were designed to encourage the progress of science and the useful arts. Disclosure was considered one part of that -- though, recent evidence has shown that the patent system fails as a disclosure mechanism. But, you're angry dude, what use does evidence have to you?


    Requiring productizing the invention to generate income will undermine the whole purpose of the patent system
    What are all universities supposed to do then ?


    Universities did tons of research well before they could patent the results. Most universities have an educational charter -- and even worse, an awful lot of the research done is based on grants involving public money.

    So university research would be fine without patents. In fact, it would likely be even stronger, since researchers would no longer have to be so damn afraid of getting sued. The chilling effects of patents on academic research are legendary.

    And how can any single inventor with just one patent produce any income if he is facing a consolidated industry cartel trying to take him down ?

    He can team up with others and build a better product. What else would he do?

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Patently-O blog would likely be surprised you are citing it in support of your position. It did talk about the study, but most certainly did not give it a ringing endorsement. To the contrary, numerous questions were raised concerning methodology employed by the authors.

    A book at Amazon? Let's see...a study of two countries in Europe from the mid-1800's to the early 1900's and dealing with technologies that even in today's world would likely be protected by trade secrets since reverse engineering is unlikely.

    A reference to non-compete agreements wherein even the general characterization of California law is not altogether accurate. While the exception, I guess you have never considered the term "inevitable disclosure".

    Articles by VCs that address software. Last time I looked software was only one of the "useful arts".

    A final reference to a VC article that likewise limits itself to software.

    Perhaps AD is not impressed with all the "evidence" because much of it has been cherry-picked to support a desired outcome.

     

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  21.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 18th, 2008 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Patently-O blog would likely be surprised you are citing it in support of your position. It did talk about the study, but most certainly did not give it a ringing endorsement. To the contrary, numerous questions were raised concerning methodology employed by the authors.

    I wasn't citing patently-o. I was citing the research of Bessen and Meurer. And you say Patently-O didn't give it a ringing endorsement, but I didn't link for Patently-O's endorsement. I linked for the research.

    And, honestly, you clearly have not read the work if you think "the methodology employed by the authors" is in question. It's not the methodology of the authors that's in question. They list out about 20 different studies that have all approached the problem, and all found the same thing.

    Unless you're contesting the methodology of all of those researchers (and showing other studies that support the reverse), then you haven't really shown much.

    A book at Amazon? Let's see...a study of two countries in Europe from the mid-1800's to the early 1900's and dealing with technologies that even in today's world would likely be protected by trade secrets since reverse engineering is unlikely.

    The "book" is an academic research project by a well-respected academic that goes through how patentless societies still had plenty of innovation -- in direct contrast to what angry dude claimed would happen. I pointed to the Amazon page, because that was the first one that showed up in a Google search. If you had actually read the research you wouldn't brush it off so easily.

    Do you have evidence to the contrary?

    A reference to non-compete agreements wherein even the general characterization of California law is not altogether accurate. While the exception, I guess you have never considered the term "inevitable disclosure".

    You're a piece of work. You just keep saying "your wrong" without a shred of evidence to the contrary. The non-enforceability of noncompetes in CA is well established. Which part is inaccurate?

    Articles by VCs that address software. Last time I looked software was only one of the "useful arts".

    AD said that VCs require patents. Read those posts. They clearly do not.

    A final reference to a VC article that likewise limits itself to software.

    Why should the fact that it's limited to software matter?

    Perhaps AD is not impressed with all the "evidence" because much of it has been cherry-picked to support a desired outcome.

    Fine. Then show counter evidence.

    I've asked for it for years, and no one has shown any.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2008 @ 8:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "The non-enforceability of noncompetes in CA is well established."

    Unless, of course, such a clause is within the approved scope of Cal. B&P Code 16600...or oerhaps relates to stock option plans...or perhaps relates to multistate/multinational organizations where choice of law and venue may be important issues...or perhaps the recognition under California tort law that 16600 does not trump trade secret law...or perhaps (fill in the blank) [case citations omitted in the interest of brevity0.

    What you say is a general rule, but as with every rule there are numerous exceptions.

    BTW, I tend to disfavor non-compete clauses except in very, very limited circumstances (sale of a business, invariable misuse of trade secrets, etc.).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Why should the fact that it's limited to software matter?"

    Perhaps because the commentators specifically limited their opinion that that specific industry and no other. You are extrapolating limited comments into something much broader than what was actually stated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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