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.