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Patent suit du jour involves videophone features, hits Apple and AT&T

Mel Martin

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For non-practicing entities -- companies that make a living purely out of holding patents and then licensing them to and/or suing companies that actually make things -- business is good (as usual). The latest NPE strike, reported by FOSS Patents, means that Apple, AT&T and US Cellular are getting hit with lawsuits saying the companies are infringing videophone patents.

The suit, filed by Visual Interactive Phone Concepts Inc. in a Michigan District Court, says the use of a "videophone interactive mailbox facility system and method of processing information" violates two patents.

The patents in question aren't very detailed, and seem to be more a vague method than an invention. The allegations claim that the 2 cellular companies and Apple services "act as a mailbox facility system." Well, OK then. Since the claim is so generic, it's likely other mobile phone OS and hardware vendors that include video calling functionality in their products will be sued as well.

VIPS Inc. previously reached settlements with the targets of patent suits in 1999 and 2007. We'll see how Apple and AT&T choose to respond, and whether they think the cost of litigation will outweigh the cost of simply biting the bullet and licensing these patents.

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