back to article Apple, AT&T, Verizon named in $7bn VoIP patent claim

A company is suing Apple, AT&T and Verizon for a combined total of $7bn over claims that they violated its voice-over-IP patents. has posted a pair of complaints against Apple (PDF) and Verizon and AT&T (PDF) in the Nevada US District Court alleging that all three companies' products infringe on two patents it …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, I'm in two minds...

    I honestly am not sure what can be done anymore...

    I want to patent "stick with a mobile device" (quite literally, and no it's not a Selfie Stick), but realise it is a very mundane patent. If I don't patent it though, would I get attacked by lawsuits when I make my Mobile Stick?

    So using Patents to defend rights is great. Using it to attack others, is going to be down to each individual case.

    However, if you have a USP that no one else can go to/copy, then perhaps lean on that instead of bits of paper trying to prove the unprovable.

    1. joed

      Re: So, I'm in two minds...

      But how does obvious idea get granted patent protection? It's like the use of a note left at one's door - becuase he/she was not in for the message to be relayed in person - could be restricted to those who license the "revelation" (with imessage going after the cheapest delivery option first).

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: So, I'm in two minds...

      Making a product does not cause patent litigation. Making a profit does. You are safe until you have enough money to make it worth the trolls' effort to come out of their bridges. Once you have money, patents are no protection from trolls. The whole idea of selling patents to trolls is that they do not make anything but legal threats, and so do not infringe any patents. (For some strange reason, lawyers believe that the copious benefits of the patent system apply to every profession except their own, so the law is not patentable.)

      Next up patenting your invention costs money. Patent lawyers frequently advise spending money on patent lawyers until you are bankrupt, then the patents can be bought from remains of your company for a pittance by trolls. Pretend you have a bottomless pit of money that means you survive until you get the patent, and someone infringes it. You can now demand royalties. If you make anything, you will get counter sued for patent infringement, and your cheapest option is to cross license. If you are a troll, it is important to sue everyone. Some of them will be dumb enough to pay up without a fight, and you use that income to pester richer victims.

      If you have a USP that no-one else can copy, then you do not need a patent. A patent only helps if someone else does copy. You then cease manufacture / sell to a troll, then spend millions and wait years for a court ruling. To succeed with a patent it must be obvious. Journals do not print the obvious because their readers know it already. This means there won't be prior art unless someone has patented it already, and as it is so obvious, it will not take long for someone to infringe.

      If you have something good, make it, sell it, then sell the company to venture capitalists (VC = someone who buys an operating cash cow, then fires the developers). Let the VC deal with trolls while you sell version 2 from the new company you set up with the proceeds of the sale.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Flocke

        "If you have something good, make it, sell it, then sell the company to venture capitalists (VC = someone who buys an operating cash cow, then fires the developers). Let the VC deal with trolls while you sell version 2 from the new company you set up with the proceeds of the sale."

        Possibly this. Make the product, keep the USP. Sell off the product side of the business (or open source it to make the trolls even more annoyed), and keep the services/support side of the business going.

        Also known as... Google. :P

  2. cyke1

    "The suits ask for a trial and award of $2.83bn from Apple, $2.38bn from Verizon, and $1.83bn from Verizon." Um right.

    1. Barbarian At the Gates

      They forgot to ask for a pony. Always ask for a pony!

      1. Mark 85

        With all the horsecrap that patent trolls toss (with phases like "mutual goodwill"), they need several teams of Clydesdales.

      2. Alister

        They forgot to ask for a pony. Always ask for a pony!

        And World Peace!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I tried reading it. Honest!

    Looking at that first patent (US 8542815 B2), the "summary of the invention" weighs in at 5206 words, or 7 pages of Monospace 10 point. The word "may" appears 98 times, e.g. "The process may involve classifying the call.." - if we crudely assume that each one is independent of the others then 2**98 possible configurations would be covered by this patent (two orders of magnitude greater than the mass of the Earth in grams). I haven't the faintest idea what isn't possibly covered by this "invention" - quite plausibly my sigh of dismay just now was in violation of it.

    So I can't comprehend it, let alone refute it. But since it was filed over three years after I started using Skype I'm doubtful that that torrent of words that "summarises" this beautiful flower can all be untainted by prior art.

    1. Roo

      Re: I tried reading it. Honest!

      "So I can't comprehend it, let alone refute it. But since it was filed over three years after I started using Skype I'm doubtful that that torrent of words that "summarises" this beautiful flower can all be untainted by prior art."

      There was talk that in the US only *patented* prior art would be considered, not sure if that has actually come to pass or not... Jackpot for the lawyers.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: I tried reading it. Honest!

      It's written for patent lawyers, not humans but essentially they appear to have patented digital telephone numbers and a digital telephone book - they are probably kicking themselves for failing to foresee a chatbot telephone operator.

      I'm off to the lawyers to patent a chatbot that dials a number for you based on a conversation like "Hey honey, get me auntie dolly on the phone"

  4. David 132 Silver badge

    "Not a troll"

    Voip-Pal, who insists in a company Q&A (PDF) that it is not a patent troll,

    .... does not offer any products or services of its own, but rather seeks to make money by buying and licensing patents. In this case, the patents were originally assigned to Digifonica, whose portfolio Voip-Pal acquired in 2013.

    If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

    Sure looks like a duck, or rather an NPE, to me.

    1. Morrie Wyatt

      Re: "Not a troll"

      But they are only after a poultry seven billion!

      They do indeed look fowl.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That patent seems so general

    That every VOIP implementation ever would violate it. As would VoLTE.

    You can't patent ideas, only implementations. Or at least that's how it is supposed to work.

    1. Brian Miller

      Re: That patent seems so general

      Isn't this stuff covered in the RFCs? RFC 3581 is from 2003. Surely implementing the RFC would violate these later patents?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prior Art...

    A fairly well known UK based company introduced TDM and VoIP call routing equipment in 1997.

    Anon for obvious reasons

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Prior Art...

      Prior Art, indeed ... Network Equipment Technologies, Inc. (based in Redwood City, CA) had TDM and VoIP call routing in 1984 ... Unfortunately, manglement squandered the franchise. I believe that the pieces are now owned by Sonus Networks.

      I finally convinced the IdiotsInCharge to allow me to register "", "", and" with NIC in 1989 ... the short-sighted idiots couldn't see past the dotted-quad ;-)

      But we were definitely doing Video, Voice and Data over IP with TDM a third of a century ago.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    Now THERE is a name designed solely to make this patent troll look as cute and cuddly as possible.

  8. MD Rackham


    The Voip-Pal patent went snicker-snack, I guess.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Voip-Pal?

      O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

      Beware the Jabberwock-related puns!

      (side note: that freaked out the Autocorrect on my phone. Apparently, if Lewis Carroll had been an iPhone user the poem would have begun:

      'Twas brill if and the slight robes

      Did fire and fumble in the wave...")

    2. Steve Aubrey

      Re: Voip-Pal?

      I sword what you did there . . .

  9. oldcoder

    The patents don't look any different than what a network router already does...

    Best route choice. Calling one route private, and another public doesn't change the routing... TCP has been doing this ever since the ARPANET existed.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Yes But...

      They have added the magic words 'Mobile' and/or 'Computer' and/or 'Network' to everything and that is their path to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

      The ONLY winners will be the lawyers and their $500/hour fees.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes But...

        $500/hr? They'll be charging more than that, if they're protecting their clients from potentially paying out billions.

  10. gnufrontier

    "You think that's air you're breathing ?"

    Hard to see how this is news of any kind. When it comes to articles like this on patent trolls it's like listening to the traffic report during the morning commute. Most of the time there is no point to the report since all the usual jams are on all the usual roads.

    Let me know when they win such a suit, that is news.

    1. MonkeyCee

      Re: "You think that's air you're breathing ?"

      The whole point of the trolls is that you don't need to win the suit. If you're able to file, and it doesn't get kicked out right away, then you are in the money.

      Not the billions you're asking for (obv), but the companies you're trolling can either spend up on their legal team (in the 8 figure range) or settle with you.

      There's not a lot that can be done either. Even forcing the trolls to prove an actual use of their patents will result in "fig leaf" use cases. Removing patent protections opens another can of worms, but would longterm (IMHO) solve the issue. Patent protection for actual inventors doesn't really seem to work, based on my experiences.

      1. HieronymusBloggs

        Re: "You think that's air you're breathing ?"

        Nice prior art you've got there.

        It'd be a shame if something happened to it...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To make this Patent Troll situation worse is that the company has merged into a pinksheet shell on the OTC so they can scam even more people by printing/selling worthless stock. OTC: VPLM

  12. Alister

    A quick skim through the two patents suggests that my Asterisk box is in violation of both of them.

    Seeing as the first release of the Asterisk PBX was 1999, I claim prior art...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Burn the trolls...

    I seriously hate patent trolls. I mean what recourse is there against them except hitmen? They WANT to be in the courtroom because they are lawyers, so suing / counter-suing them does no good.

  14. TheFunkeyGibbon

    The problem isn't just the trolls

    It's the corrupt system that allows them to thrive. The US Patent office needs to be torn down an remade with people who care about innovation and will protect it, not issue protection for any old idea.

  15. Saul Dobney

    Re-examination should be the first step

    The first step of a patent claim should be a full and detailed re-examination of the patent by the patent office paid for by the complainant including notification of re-examination procedures to any potential violating parties identified by the complainant.

    That would A. strengthen the hand of legitimate patents, so encouraging settlement and reducing the need to go to court; and B. mean that if the patent office rejects the patent on re-examination, any subsequent legal action would be between the patent troll and the government as the complainant would first have to overturn the patent office's ruling before pursing a case against the defendants.

    If the patent office finds the patent valid, it doesn't stop the defendants could still arguing that a patent invalid in court, but then that's at their cost.

    For legitimate well-founded patents, the cost of re-examination would balance against the potential financial upside of winning. For trolls, they'd be discouraged from testing weak patents because they'd both have to pay and run the risk of losing the patent in the process.

  16. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Time related damages?

    Considering the "big names" they are going after and the size of the damages they are claiming, might there not be an argument to say they deliberately delayed making contact about licensing deals until the the "infringing" products were ubiquitous?

    A good lawyer should be be able to make a good case for that since the troll must have been aware of the infringing VOIP products much sooner since their only reason for existing is to licence and/or sue. They job is to look out for alleged infringements. They should have been in "talks" years ago, not "months" ago.

    A reasonable judge might even invalidate the patent as having lapsed through the implied willfillness not to enforce their rights.

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