Klausner Continues To Sue Everyone Over Visual Voicemail Patent

from the this-is-innovation? dept

You may recall stories involving a small patent holding firm called Klausner Technologies, which claims to hold patents on the concept of "visual voicemail." It seems to have interpreted these patents pretty broadly to the point that it considers anyone who offers any graphical interface to voicemail as infringing. Over the years, that's meant lawsuits against AOL, Vonage, Apple, eBay, AT&T and others. Apparently, suing one by one was too much trouble, because Klausner has now sued another bunch of companies including Google, Verizon and Embarq. Of course, the company is playing up the fact that all those other companies it sued settled, but we've seen that game before. There's not much new here as this scenario is all too common. We have a company with an overly broad patent on a concept that was a natural obvious progression of the art, suing pretty much every company that actually innovates, thus making actual innovation more expensive.
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Filed Under: patents, visual voicemail
Companies: embarq, google, klausner, lg, verizon

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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 28 Aug 2008 @ 4:08am

    Concrete Response.

    Let's try to be more concrete about how visual voicemail is obvious. I have a copy of a graphical file browser (binaries and manual), dated 1988. This is ProFinder, which was an accessory to Wordstar 5. ProFinder could handle arbitrary file types, selecting the appropriate viewer software for each. It had an "extensions" file, in a dialect of the MS-DOS batch command language. This dialect allowed multiple batch files to be embedded in a single ProFinder command file, and provided a system of variables to pass filenames, etc. into the batch files. You could assign a different script to each file extension, and then, within that script, you could insert commands to run an appropriate program or programs. ProFinder also supported a "titles" field, where you could write and afterwards view a short text description of a file, in addition to the name, date, time, and file size.

    ProFinder is one of a type of kindred programs, collectively known as "DOS Shells," which were popular at the time. ProFinder is not a "true shell," because it was not invoked from the "config.sys" file. These shells were collectively more or less derivative of the Mackintosh File Finder, but they had various additional tricks.

    I have a sequence of catalogs from PC-SIG, a major shareware distributor of the time, These grew to the point where they were substantial bound volumes, and PC-SIG was not guilty of undue boastfulness when it stated to call them "encyclopedias." The first "Encyclopedia" dates from 1988-89. It does not bear a copyright date, but I can date it by reference to other volumes in the series. Disk numbers up to #1124 are cited in a volume dated 1988. In this encyclopedia, I find a section devoted to DOS shells. Apart from various graphical point-and-shoot shells, I also find IDC Shell/NARC, a shell-like program for manipulating the constituent parts of an archive file. This reference teaches the extension of the capabilities of a DOS shell to a program operating on records within a file.

    "A person of normal creativity" would naturally have gone through the relevant sections (DOS Shells, Disk Utilities, Hard Disk Utilities) of the PC-SIG Encyclopedia, making a laundry list of the distinctive features of programs which did approximately the same thing, and actually running programs whose capabilities he did not understand from the catalog listing, and finally building a program having all the features. One might call this "design by comparison shopping." That said, given a file or data type, and a means of viewing files or data of such type, it is immediately obvious to hook them together into a graphical browser.

    (It is also worth looking at approximately contemporary Public Brand Software catalogs. They tended to incorporate a lot of screenshots of programs.)

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