VoIP-Pal Hits Apple, AT&T, Verizon with $7B Patent Lawsuit

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Washington-based patent holding company VoIP-Pal filed filed lawsuits this week against Apple, AT&T, and Verizon over claims the companies are infringing on communication-related patents it owns. VoIP-Pal is asking for US$7 billion in damages from the companies.

VoIP-Pal sues Apple over iMessage, WiFi calling patent infringementVoIP-Pal sues Apple over iMessage, WiFi calling patent infringement

According to VoIP-Pal's filing the system Apple uses to determine whether conversations in the Messages app should use iMessage or standard SMS, and the system for deciding when to use WiFi calling are covered by patents it owns. The company said Apple, AT&T, and Verizon all declined to negotiate licensing terms for the technology.

VoIP-Pal is asking the court for about $2.8 billion from Apple, $1.8 billion from AT&T, and $2.3 billion from Verizon. The company claims all three had prior knowledge of the patents because of their involvement in the communications industry.

Unlike so many patent infringement cases Apple faces, this one was filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada and not Texas. Many patent holders choose U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas because it's known to favor them in infringement cases.

VoIP-Pal acquired the patents in question when it bought Digifonica in 2013. The company is pretty proud of its patent portfolio and even went so far as to issue a press release last year titled, "Voip-Pal's Patent Portfolio Will be the Envy of the TelCo Industry."

The cases is still awaiting a judge, and it's a safe bet Apple, AT&T, and Verizon are already working on their defenses. Considering how much money is at stake, odds are VoIP-Pal is going to push to get as much out of all three companies as it can.

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This is the state of patent law in the United States: It doesn't matter if VoIP-Pal has a legitimate claim. The knee jerk reaction is to assume they're a patent troll looking to strong-arm money out of deep pocket companies like Apple, AT&T, and Verizon. Maybe they are, or maybe they aren't; either way, the U.S. legal system is overrun with companies using the treat of court action over patent infringement claims as a business model.

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