Videophone patent troll goes after Apple and co.

Wed, Jun 1, 2011

Legal, News

As one patent troll hopefully goes down, another one emerges. While it’s too soon to know for sure, we can only hope that Apple’s pointed response to Lodsys and its efforts to extort money from Apple will see the company wither up and die. But you cut off one head, and another emerges. Update: And of course, now it’s well known that Lodsys was undeterred by Apple and sued 7 iOS developers yesterday, but we digress.

In the latest example of patent trolling, yet another non-practicing entity called Visual Interactive Phone Concepts filed suit against Apple, AT&T, Google, Verizon, and US Cellular alleging that each company is infringing on two videophone mailbox patents they own, though each is named “videophone interactive mailbox facility system and method of processing information.” The two patents can be viewed here and here.

Much like the garbage that is the Lodsys patent, the patents in question here contain absolutely no technical information and are rather a collection of loose descriptions as to how something might work. Again, there’s a serious deficiency in our country’s patent system when patents are routinely issued for exceedingly broad descriptions that are not novel and obvious on their face.

On that note, FOSS patents chimes in:

The patents don’t truly disclose an invention in terms of describing a technical solution in sufficient detail so that it could be implemented on that basis. Instead, they outline a concept at such a high level that it’s more of a vision than an invention. Those are examples of patents that claim a monopoly on the right to solve a problem rather than a monopoly on a particular solution. Unfortunately, the USPTO does consider them legitimate inventions and issued reexamination certificates in 2010, reaffirming the patents “with only minor amendments to the claims” according to the patent holder’s representations in the latest complaints. Reexamination requests had been entered on an anonymous basis.

Again, Visual Interactive Phone Concepts (VIPC) is going after three distinct entities but chose not to file a singular lawsuit because each one is slightly different. As it pertains to Apple, VIPC is going after them because they sell “mobile communication devices that are videophones.”

Unfortunately, the patents in question here recently withstood reexamination according to FOSS, and “have a long history of litigation going back to cases in 1999 and 2007.” The fact that this company is still around litigating suggests a history of past successes so we’ll wait and see how Apple and co. choose to respond.



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