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.
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Filed Under: patents, visual voicemail
Companies: aol, apple, at&t, ebay, klausner, vonage


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 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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