Google Settles Visual VoiceMail Patent
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Google has agreed to settle an intellectual property claim brought by serial inventor Judah Klausner, who has won settlements in the past from Apple, Skype and LG Electronics, Klausner said on Monday.
The dispute concerned patents that Klausner holds covering so-called visual voicemail, which makes voicemail work more like email by sending visual alerts of voice messages to computers or phones, allowing users to selectively retrieve the messages.
Visual voicemail is a key feature of many of the latest touchscreen phones on the market, including Apple's iPhone. New York-based Klausner holds several patents relating to the technology in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Klausner grabbed the attention of the mobile phone industry in late 2007 when his company, privately held Klausner Technologies Inc, sued Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and six other companies for $360 million for violating patents on visual voicemail technology.
Klausner declined to comment on Monday on the terms of the deal with Google, but said the Internet giant was now free to use the technology.
"Google has a license to Klausner's visual voicemail patents," he told Reuters by telephone.
As part of the deal, Klausner's lawsuit against Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has been dismissed with prejudice, meaning that the issues cannot be later revived in court action between the two parties.
Google owns two types of services that could be broadly affected by Klausner's patents.
It offers Web-based phone services through a start-up it acquired, Grand Central, and it has also built the Android open software platform for smartphones, which it has licensed to companies including T-Mobile and Vodafone.
Klausner did not say to what degree the agreement covered Android software when it was sublicensed by other parties.
A new visual voicemail service from T-Mobile
Separately, Klausner said T-Mobile had agreed to license his European visual voicemail patents in 17 European countries. The agreement covers a new visual voicemail service that T-Mobile's German unit announced at the CeBIT IT trade fair last week.
Klausner has never had a legal dispute with T-Mobile.
The deal would result in the first time a European operator has licensed visual voicemail technology for a mobile phone other than the iPhone.
A T-Mobile spokesman said: "We want to offer what currently has a working title of 'visual mobile box' to all our customers, not just those using the iPhone, for example."
"The visual mobile box will be available in Germany soon, definitely in the first half of the year," he said. "The application will be available on all phones that have the hardware to support it."
Klausner licensed patents on personal electronic organizers, for example for address books, to Japanese consumer electronics makers in the 1970s and 80s. His company is currently working on patents for turning cellphones into movie or video projectors.