Apple, AT&T named in visual voicemail lawsuit

Klausner Technologies on Monday announced that it has filed a patent lawsuit against Apple and AT&T for selling the iPhone. Klausner claims the iPhone infringes upon its existing patents, and estimates the damages and royalties at $360 million.

The suit was filed in United States District Court, in the Eastern District of Texas. Representing Klausner is the Santa Monica, Calif.-based law firm of Dovel & Luner.

The suit also names Comcast, Cablevision and Skype, companies that Klausner Technologies alleges have also violated the same patents as Apple and AT&T, but not because of the iPhone — because of similar features those companies offer to their customers.

Klausner Technologies cites its U.S. Patents 5,572,576 and 5,283,818, separately granted in 1994 and 1996, which describe a “telephone answering device linking displayed data with recorded audio message.” The company has previously sued Time Warner’s America Online (AOL) and Vonage Holdings for infringing on these copyrights. Klausner later settled with those other companies and has licensed its patents to them.

Visual Voicemail, a feature of the iPhone, enables users to selectively identify and listen to messages in their voicemail by using the iPhone’s interface. The phone identifies callers and when they left their message — users can then listen to each message individually, rather than having to use key commands to fast-forward, rewind, stop and start messages as they do with many other phones.

In one of the television advertisements for the iPhone, user “Doug” pithily describes visual voicemail as “One of the greatest advancements in the history of mankind, without question.”

Klausner Technologies was founded by Judah Klausner, who claims to have invented the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and electronic organizer. Klausner claims that Apple’s Newton PDA was covered under an OEM patent license granted twenty years ago under his patent 4,117,542.

An Apple spokesperson contacted for this story indicated that Apple does not comment about pending litigation.

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