Apple Sued for Patent Infringement Concerning FaceTime Software

By Joe Rizzo September 29, 2014

Over the past couple of years Apple and Samsung have sued each other, and been sued by other companies over patent infringements. This is a reasonably normal event. Most companies want to keep control over what they feel was developed under their roof.

Straight Path Communications is an intangible asset monetization company, which specializes in maximizing the value of assets such as Intellectual Property. It is also the latest company to file a lawsuit against Apple over patent infringement in the California Northern District Court, San Francisco office. What makes this one interesting is that it involves patents originally owned by a company called NetSpeak, which developed a product in the 1990s called WebPhone.

According to Straight Path, Apple’s FaceTime video conferencing software infringes on three of the four patents owned by NetSpeak. The company was founded in 1995 and three years later Motorola owned a 32 percent stake in NetSpeak. The company developed software for large computer networks so that enterprises could speak directly with employees and customers over the Internet cheaply. Keep in mind what the Internet and computer technology was like in the late 90s.

As is stated by Patently Apple, WebPhone received a great deal of praise when it was introduced. Along with its underlying technology, it was described as being new and original, as well as having the potential for far-reaching implications for communications and computer technology. An example, in the form of an article written in August of 1996 concluded that NetSpeak's new Business WebPhone System had the potential to be "absolutely revolutionary."

The paragraph in the lawsuit that describes Factual Background claims that the Patents-in-Suit were previously owned by NetSpeak Corporation. The technology in the patents was used in its WebPhone product. The reason that the lawsuit has been filed by Straight Path is because it is the lawful owner-by-assignment of all right, title and interest in and to the Patents-in-Suit.

For those who like legalese count four of Straight Path’s filing states that Apple "has been and now is directly infringing one or more claims of the '208 Patent … by, among other things, making, using, selling, offering to sell and/or importing into the United States for subsequent sale or use of devices that include telephony processes with dynamically assigned network protocol addresses that include a method of selectively alerting a user of an incoming communication, including (a) receiving a call packet containing an information profile identifying a telephony process that is the source of a communications; (b) responding to the incoming communication in accordance with the identity of the source; and (c) wherein a central server stores the address used to establish a connection between telephony processes. For example, and without limitation, Defendant directly infringes the '208 Patent by making, using, selling, offering to sell and/or importing into the United States IP telecommunications such as Defendant's FaceTime software.”

The list goes on in addition to 208 the following patents are also listed in the lawsuit, 6,108,704, 6,131,121 and 6,701,365. I mentioned above that Straight Path Communications describes itself as an intangible asset monetization company. Essentially it is a patent troll company, which is defined as a person or company who enforces patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question, thus engaging in economic rent-seeking.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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