Patent Problems Hit Google Talk

A company holding patents related to voice over IP (VoIP) sued Google in early December, claiming Google Talk infringes on its intellectual property.

Gary Price first reported the suit, filed in October, in the Search Engine Watch blog.

A Google spokesman issued a statement saying, “We believe the lawsuit is without merit, and we will defend against it vigorously.”

John Ward, an intellectual property attorney and partner in the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, noted, “Regardless of whether Google may have added some bells and whistles to their Google Talk VoIP product, they may still have to account to others for using technology that others have already patented.”

In August 2002, RTI sued NNC, a Canadian holding company that operates Nortel Networks, for infringement of the patent, and later it added Verizon Communications.

RTI’s claims were dismissed because it sued NNC instead of Nortel Networks, and, in February, an appeals court upheld the ruling. The claims against Verizon were dismissed with prejudice on March 25, 2003.

In August, Price reported that part of the Google Talk technology was licensed from Global IP Sounds, a Stockholm-based technology provider. Global IP Sounds says that its GIPS SoundWare product enables VoIP implementations to withstand up to 30 percent packet loss while maintaining telco-grade voice quality.

As part of Google recent partnership renewal with AOL, the companies agreed to make their instant messaging applications interoperate. There’s speculation that if Google adopted AOL’s tech, the move might eliminate the alleged infringement.

But Ward said, “Just because RTI has not pursued a claim against AOL doesn’t necessarily mean AOL is free of issues with the RTI patents. RTI may have chosen to not pursue AOL for a variety of business reasons.”

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