Klausner sues Apple iPhone over voicemail

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Klausner Technologies said on Monday the company had filed a $360 million suit against Apple and AT&T Inc over voicemail patents that Klausner claims the Apple iPhone infringes.

A journalist holds the Apple iPhone outside the Apple store on New York's 5th Avenue, June 29, 2007. Klausner Technologies Inc said on Monday the company had filed a $360 million suit against Apple and AT&T over voicemail patents that Klausner claims the iPhone infringes. REUTERS/Mike Segar

New York-based Klausner said the lawsuit also names Comcast Corp, Cablevision Systems Corp and eBay Inc’s Skype as infringing its patent for “visual voicemail.” The plaintiff seeks an additional $300 million from the three.

Klausner said in a statement that it filed the lawsuit in U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Texas. A copy of the filing was not yet available from the court.

The suit alleges asserts that the defendants’ Internet-based voicemail products and services violate a Klausner patent. It seeks damages and future royalties estimated at $300 million, according to the press release.

The complaint involves U.S. patent 5,572,576, the same one at issue in a suit Klausner filed in 2006 against voice-over-Internet telephone service provider Vonage Holdings Corp. The two sides agreed to settle that earlier case in October 2007, according a spokesman for Klausner.

Vonage is now a licensee of Klausner’s voicemail technology for its Vonage Voicemail Plus service, as is Time Warner Inc’s AOL for its AOL Voicemail services, Klausner said.

A company spokeswoman said Apple’s pioneering Newton personal digital assistant was covered under a licensing deal between Klausner and Japan’s Sharp Corp, the manufacturer of the Newton, tied to Klausner’s U.S. patent 4,117,542.

The suit naming Apple as a defendant targets the sleek visual voicemail application offered by Apple in its iPhone.

The company alleged in its statement that Cablevision’s Optimum Voicemail, Comcast’s Digital Voice Voicemail and eBay’s Skype Voicemail violate Klausner’s patent by allowing users to selectively retrieve and listen to voice messages via message inbox displays.

An Apple spokeswoman said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

EBay spokesman Hani Durzy said his company has not received the suit and would not comment until its lawyers have seen it.

“We haven’t seen it,” echoed a Cablevision spokesman, who declined to comment further.

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.

Additional reporting by Yinka Adegoke in New York and Scott Hillis in San Francisco, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Leslie Gevirtz