Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

Summary: A 'patent trolling' company has filed a suit against Apple over voicemail technology used within iPad and iPhone products.

TOPICS: Telcos, Apple, Legal

Lodging a complaint with the U.S. district court in Florida on Tuesday, Brandywine Communications Technologies is launching a suit against Apple, citing patent infringement.

Brandywine believes that the voicemail technology imbued within iPads and iPhone products infringes on two patents that the company own, based on mobile technology - patents No. 6,236,717 and 5,719,922 held in the U.S:

Patent No. 6236717:

A simultaneous voice and data modem coordinates the storage of voice messages and data messages on an audio answering machine and a personal computer, respectively.

This allows the called party to subsequently retrieve, via the simultaneous voice and data modem, both a voice message and an associated data message, i.e., a multimedia message, where the called party listens to the voice message while viewing the data message. The called party can retrieve the multimedia message either locally or from a remote location.

No. 5719922 is almost identical to the aforementioned patent, both of which were filed in 2001 and 1998 respectively.

Brandywine may not be a household name, but for enterprises, it is known for demanding 'serial' court cases. The company has already sued many industry players, including RIM, LG, Nokia, and HTC.

Last week, when the company was sued by Verizon over a separate collection of patents in spectrum technology, the communications corporation described Brandywine as a company that amasses a collection of patents, which are continually enforced through the filing of various lawsuits.

Although Brandywine has attempted in the past to sue Apple collectively, this time, it appears that the company has been singled out.

(via Gigom)

Image credit: CNet


Topics: Telcos, Apple, Legal

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

    Yet another of these bogus, overly-broad patents granted by the drooling buffoons at the USPTO, none of whom apparently know what a patent is or what the requirements are. I often wonder what sort of otherwise unemployable liberal arts majors infest their offices, but there doesn't appear anyone in the USPTO with any technical acumen or the ability to think critically. I also wonder how many of them leave there for cushy jobs at the companies for whom these ludicrous patents were granted, after some discreet interval of time, so as not to make it too obvious. Then again, it could be something as simple as monetary compensation. Whatever the mechanism it, it is quite obvious the the patent system is irretrievably broken, and the rest of the world would be best advised to simply ignore these scams.
    • You'd be right out there screaming against the overly broad

      patent for a typewriter as well, saying something like: What? A patent for pressing a button that swings a lever onto a piece of paper?!?!? Then you would cite moveable type as prior art.
      • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

        @baggins_z No, the analogy would be that typewriters come into being for several years, a company convinces the patent office that their particular typewriter deserves a patent even though a wide variety of similar devices existed prior to the filing, and then that company goes on to sue the entire laser-printing and ink-jet industry because they feel their patent gives them the rights to any device of any kind which could produce black and white text on a piece of paper upon the request of a human.
      • @spark

        My apologies. It's obvious you would be screaming at Dvorak for patenting his typewriter keyboard layout. After all, just changing the keys around and patenting it?!?
    • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

      Possibly another bogus patent acse, but it couldn't happen to a more deserving company. What goes around comes around.
  • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

    Wait, so the patent troll is getting a taste of its own medicine?
    • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

      @Peter Perry made me chuckle. Indeed a real patent troll has been sued this time. :)
    • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

      @Peter Perry
      Hey, good one. Apple has sued every technology companies that compete against them and now they are geting a taste of their own medicine. It's funny how the zdnet editor did not point this out.
      business owner
  • One thing would help....

    When the author writes an article like this, it would be very helpful for him / her / it to add a "kindergarten" level example on how the infringement works.<br>Using this article as an example, I read it and this article made sort of sense to me (a bit of a stretch?) but when my wife read it she was like "huh?".
    • and he should explain what a patent troll is

      @rhonin Patents can be legally bought and sold and this gives the patent owner the right to sue. There is no such thing as "trolling".
    • Basically the patent covers

      devices that integrate the function of a modem and a computer to allow for voice to trigger data recall or vice versa. For example, tapping a phone number to view voicemail from that number, or doing text recognition on a voicemail to display a phone number or a picture. The key to the patent is the "crosstalking" between a modem answering machine and the computer.
      • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

        @baggins_z and it sounds much more sophisticated than the "slide to open" patent by Apple. If Apple could get this ridiculous patent, then I do not see why other people should not be allowed to patent any marginally inventive or esthetically novel ideas.
      • @pupkin

        Everyone thinks an idea is obvious AFTER someone else has thought of it.
  • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

    Both of those patents seem to be broad and could apply to any phone from a feature phone to a smartphone... and last time I checked the iPad does not have any sort of voicemail capability.
    • It would likely apply to the iPad 3G, since the patent

      applies to devices that integrate a modem (the cellular portion) and a computer (the iPad portion) in order to use voice data to trigger date recall and vice versa.
      • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

        @baggins_z That could be - I don't own one and the one I borrowed was a WiFi only version of the original iPad.
    • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

      @Pete "athynz" Athens sounds like you only bought the wifi version But hey, everyone wants an oversized cellphone you can't carry in your pocket for $800.
      • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

        @Nate_K [b]sounds like you only bought the wifi version[/b]

        What are you peeking into my windows? Sorry, wrong house then. I do not own an iPad although my wife is planning on getting one when her desktop dies as she uses the 'net for email and light web browsing.

        [b]But hey, everyone wants an oversized cellphone you can't carry in your pocket for $800.[/b]

        Your sheer ignorance amazes me at times - more so because it find it hard to believe that someone can be this uneducated and still be able to use a computer. You do realize that your pathetic attempt at a swipe at the iPad can be applied to most tablet PCs?
    • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

      @Pete "athynz" Athens
      And Slide to unlock is not broad at all?
      • RE: Apple sued over voicemail 'patent infringement'

        @Samic Not as I read that particular patent which described not only the motion but the combination of the motion, the icon, and the graphical representation of the "track" the icon slides in including the "Slide to Unlock" text.