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, 29 Aug 2008 @ 7:36am

    Visual Mail and Video Mail.

    Well, the patents do not relate to video voicemail, but to _visual_ voicemails, that is, to handling voicemails the same way that one handles every other piece of data, such as e-mails or files. We don't use the term "visual" anymore, because nowadays, nearly everything is visual. On the contrary, we use "command line" for the increasingly rare exceptions. As I have noted, there were programs being sold, well before the patent date, which could handle any kind of data visually, without needing to know what kind of it was. All that was necessary was for each kind of data to have a unique name.

    In the late 1980's we had terminal programs, such as ProComm (v. 2.4, 1986). At that date, we did not have the internet. We did have Bulletin Board Sites (BBS's), each with its own telephone number. The result was that the "dialing directory" performed much of the function of the modern bookmarks file. ProComm had a visual dialing directory screen, with different entries listed by name, telephone number, modem settings (bit rate, parity, stop bits, echoing, 7 or 8 bit ASCII), and the name of a ProComm command file associated with that BBS. One used the PgUp and PgDn keys to scroll through the list. ProComm had a "logging function," that is, push a key, and it would automatically record every byte transmitted by the remote machine to a file. ProComm did not have "point-and-shoot" capability, because mouses were still only used in Macintosh computers. ProComm would display a list of options, numbered, say, 1-10 and you would enter the number of the item you wanted. That was faster than repeatedly pushing the arrow keys. ProComm was a program which could essentially do whatever the underlying hardware, the modem, was capable of.

    The modem generally did not have the ability to digitize voice signals from the telephone line. Of course, this was at a time when a floppy disk held either 360 kilobytes or 1.2 megabytes, and such capabilities would have been fairly pointless. About that time, I bought a little box at Radio Shack which enabled a tape recorder to be plugged into the telephone line, so that one could record telephone interviews.

    As for video voicemail, you can do much better, actually, if you look at old science fiction. Science fiction, from 1940, or from 1960, or from 1980, is full of detailed user-level descriptions of internet-class technology, ie. push this button to record, push that button to send, etc. Implementations of the basic underlying capabilities-- things like video cameras-- had been developed to a serviceable consumer-good level by 1985, though not of course to the levels they would subsequently reach. Further, by 1985, there was a public recognition that all information is potentially computer data, and that all electronic devices could be replaced by computers and data networks, and there were all of these elegant systems for handling information in general, information in the abstract, as it were. By 1985, the question of implementation of the capabilities described in old science fiction had become purely an economic question, one of how much basic computer components cost, of how big, how fast, and how cheap chips were.

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