Apple and others sued by Klausner over Voicemail

Apple-logo5.jpgKlausner Technologies filed a lawsuit in U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Texas against Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision Systems and Skype over alleged patent infringements interfering with Klausner’s visual voicemail rights. Klausner is seeking $360 million from Apple and AT&T claiming the iPhone utilizes patented technology owned by Klausner. The other three companies are being sued for an additional $300 million.

The complaint revolves around U.S. patent 5,572,576 and claims that the defendants’ have used Internet-based voicemail products and services that violate the Klausner patent. It is claimed that the defendants violated the patent by allowing users to selectively retrieve and listen to voice messages via message inbox displays. Klausner settled a similar lawsuit with the Internet telephone service provider Vonage in October of this year.

The suit was filed for the plaintiff by the California law firm of Dovel & Luner in Texas. “We have litigated this patent successfully on two prior occasions,” Greg Dovel of Dovel & Luner, said in the statement issued by Klausner. The Defendants haven’t had time to make any statements other than Apple saying it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

For me, lawsuits are fun to follow when I’m not named as a defendant. But I do have concern when it comes to the mobile phone business. The law is notorious for being behind the technology curve. If the legislature doesn’t pass new laws to keep up, courts are forced to look to old statutes and case law to decide on issues that weren’t even thought of when passed and decided. Lawyers argue over similarities and differences of the past that don’t always fit with the modern. This is good for billable hours but is a drain on technology companies and creates the potential to slow the development of new applications. I’m a strong advocate for intellectual property rights but the law needs to digitalize if devices like mobile phones are to advance in ways that makes life a little better.