Potter Voice Technologies Engages Major Names Over Voice Patent

By Steve Anderson April 27, 2012

The patent wars have been going on for some time now, and while most are used to seeing the major names face off – Apple and Samsung, Motorola and Apple, Oracle and Google – a lesser player occasionally enters the field with a claim against a much larger company.

Perhaps the most ambitious example is about to play itself out with Potter Voice Technologies, who’s suing a major portion of the mobile electronics industry over a voice control patent.

Potter Voice Technologies claims they hold a patent for "natural-language voice control of a computer," a technology seem in things like Siri, Windows Speech Commands and Google Voice Commands. The patent in question, patent 5,729,659, was issued back in 1998 to Jerry L. Potter.

Potter Voice Technologies filed suit on Wednesday, seeking damages in an indeterminate amount, but "in no event less than a reasonable royalty," as well as injunctions and attorney's fees.

What makes the Potter Voice Technologies suit so thoroughly unique is its sheer scope. Potter Voice Technologies is suing not only Microsoft, Google and Apple – by itself a major suit – but fully 15 vendors and affiliated companies including Samsung, Sony, Nokia, Research In Motion, Sharp, Pantech and several more.

Potter's patent details a system allowing a computer to interpret commands that are provided in standard spoken language, a means to remove the need for specialized training to operate a computer –especially by voice command, which often required a whole new set of specific commands – and allow beginner users to do more with their computers.

The spoken words are then used to search a data structure organized much like a spreadsheet, in rows and columns, to find the commands and activate them.

The age of the patent is particularly interesting. Since the application itself was filed in 1995, with the patent awarded three years later, it predates all of the listed technologies by nearly a decade. Though the patent itself means Potter Voice Technologies wouldn't be able to collect royalties past 2015 due to a structure in patent law, it would still encompass the last several years, in which voice command truly took off.

The law may very well be on the major tech companies' side here, as the America Invents Act, signed last year, fundamentally altered the U.S. Patent system and made it much harder to pursue multiple defendants in one suit.

It will be some time, of course, before a result of any type can be reached. Given the size of the companies Potter's pursuing, however, it doesn't bode well for the little guy. But with that patent in hand, this particular David may just have the sling necessary to hit at least a few of these particular Goliaths.

Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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