Apple sued by patent holding company Brandywine over voicemail


Apple is being sued by Brandywine Communications Technologies over multimedia voicemail in its iPhone and iPad products. In the complaint filed in the U.S. district court for the middle district of Florida Tuesday, Brandywine claims that Apple is infringing on two patents it owns related to mobile voicemail.

The patents in question are No. 6,236,717 and No. 5,719,922, which are  very similar, and both are described as covering a “simultaneous voice/data answering machine.” The patents at issue were filed in 2001 and 1998, respectively, in Florida by their inventors.

Here’s the official description from the patent filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:

A simultaneous voice and data modem coordinates the storage of voice messages and data messages on an audio answering machine and a personal computer, respectively. This allows the called party to subsequently retrieve, via the simultaneous voice and data modem, both a voice message and an associated data message, i.e., a multimedia message, where the called party listens to the voice message while viewing the data message. The called party can retrieve the multimedia message either locally or from a remote location.

So who is Brandywine Communications Technologies? When Verizon sued the company last week for infringement — on different patents — the carrier basically accused Brandywine of patent trolling. In that complaint against Brandywine, Verizon described the company as “a patent holding company that is in the business of enforcing patent rights through the filing of various lawsuits.”

That would put Brandywine in the same category as Lodsys and NTP, two patent holding companies that went after Apple and several other mobile device makers in recent years over both in-app purchase technology and wireless email delivery methods.

Brandywine does seem to be scattering patent lawsuits far and wide. It already sued practically every big name in mobile technology back in September over these same patents. That included Apple, RIM, LG, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, T-Mobile, AT&T and several others. This time they’re trying their luck at suing Apple directly.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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