Categories: Global Tech News

Apple Sued For $360 Million Over iPhone’s Voicemail

What is lauded by many users as one of the iPhone’s hottest features has just landed the electronics giant in some hot legal waters. 

TIME magazine’s invention of the year, just landed one of the bigger patent infringement suits of the year.  Klausner Technologies has filed suit against Apple claiming the giant infringed on its patent for visual voicemail, and is seeking $360M in compensation and damages. 

Klausner holds U.S. patents 5,572,576 and 5,283,818.  The patents basically describe a system that allows for visual retrieval and sorting of voicemail via a display.  The patents certainly sound like they would cover any visual voicemail setup, which likely is making Apple pretty nervous.

The plaintiff cites Apple’s states that visual voicemail is “one of the greatest advances in the history of mankind … without question” and yet is shorting the inventor on royalties.

Various other companies have already paid Klausner Technologies to license these patents, including Time Warner’s AOL, which features the technology in its AOL Voicemail service.  Vonage also pays to use the technology in its Voicemail Plus service.

Apple and AT&T refused to make immediate comments on the lawsuit.

The suit was filed by California law firm of Dovel & Luner in a federal court in the Eastern District of Texas.  Klausner also attacked Comcast’s Digital Voice Voicemail, Cablevision Systems’ Optimum Voicemail, and Ebay’s Skype, filing a separate lawsuit in the same court, on the same day.  The second suit cites infringement on the same patents and seeks from the group of infringers a barely lighter $300M.

Klausner Technologies is an avid patent seeker, and was founded by Judah Klausner who invented and patented the PDA and electronic organizer.  Judah owns the legendary U.S. patent  4,117,542 which covers these devices.  He licensed his PDA patent under an OEM license to Apple so that Apple could develop its Newton PDA, which became the archetype for many PDAs to come.  Klausner’s new company has oft been compared to licenser NTP for its aggressive patent mongering — though in Klausner’s defense, he has singularly come up with a large portion of the ideas.

Now Apple, who once enjoyed happy times with Klausner celebrating Newtons in the 90s, faces its former friend as an enemy in court.  Unfortunately for Apple, Klausner is just one legal enemy of its much maligned iPhone.  Apple is facing class action suits for its iBricking and “monopolistic behavior”, suits over the iPhones battery, an environmental lawsuit from activist organization Greenpeace, and complaints of iFires.

Hopefully Apple’s astronomical iPhone sales and energetic growth can keep pace with its mounting legal bills.

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