Last week, Apple was sued in the Eastern District of Texas for allegedly infringing on the patents of Mirror Worlds, a company that sold desktop search and organization software in the early 1990s.
This week's lawsuit is a revision of one filed on Dec. 3 by Klausner Technologies that cited an additional patent (U.S. Patent No. 5,572,576) and named more defendants: Apple, AT&T, AT&T Mobility, Comcast, CSC Holdings, eBay, GotVoice, and SimulScribe.
Klausner Technologies was founded by Judah Klausner, who claims to have invented the PDA and electronic organizer. A Dec. 3 press release announcing his company's initial lawsuit claimed that Apple licensed technology for its Newton PDA from Klausner, under U.S. Patent No. 4,117,542.
"The iPhone violates Klausner's intellectual property rights by allowing users to selectively retrieve voice messages via the iPhone's inbox display," the December release stated. It also said that Klausner's patent has been successfully litigated twice before.
The Klausner Technologies patent describes a "telephone answering device (TAD) which includes a means of intelligently organizing voice messages, associated entered codes such as personal IDs and home telephone numbers, and information stored in the memory of the TAD."
The patent's arguable innovation is the ability to access voice messages nonsequentially. By preassigning identifier codes to callers, users can access messages from a list. "This enables the user to access messages in a selective manner based on the identity of the caller," the patent explains. "The need to listen to the actual voice messages to determine the caller's identity and the need to listen to the messages sequentially or chronologically is obviated, saving both time and effort."
On its Web site, Apple highlights similar functionality for its iPhone: "An industry first, Visual Voicemail allows you to go directly to any of your messages without listening to the prior messages. So you can quickly select the messages that are most important to you."
Klausner Technologies holds several telephone audio patents. Vonage last year settled a patent suit brought by Klausner for an undisclosed amount.
Michael C. Smith, a partner in the law firm of Siebman, Reynolds, Burg, Phillips & Smith, blogs about his patent litigation practice in the Eastern District of Texas. Last week, he cited an article in American Lawyer than noted defendants becoming increasingly successful in patent cases. He said that through late 2006 and 2007, defendants posted a 2-to-1 win rate over plaintiffs.
In his Patently-O blog, Dennis Crouch, associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, cites the work of James Bessen and Michael J. Meurer, who present evidence in their book Patent Failure that the current patent system does more harm than good.
Bessen and Meurer claim that "in industries other than chemicals and pharmaceuticals, defense against American patent lawsuits amounts to 13% of R&D spending by defendant firms (19% in 1999). In contrast, our studies of patent value indicate that worldwide patent value amounts to only 6% of R&D spending by these same firms. The result -- patents impose a tax of at least 7% on R&D investments outside of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries."
An Apple spokesperson wasn't immediately available to comment. Apple typically does not comment on pending litigation.
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security EnterpriseTo learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Infographic: The State of DevOps in 2017Is DevOps helping organizations reduce costs and time-to-market for software releases? What's getting in the way of DevOps adoption? Find out in this InformationWeek and Interop ITX infographic on the state of DevOps in 2017.
IT Strategies to Conquer the CloudChances are your organization is adopting cloud computing in one way or another -- or in multiple ways. Understanding the skills you need and how cloud affects IT operations and networking will help you adapt.