Plano, TX-based security tech provider Uniloc USA recently filed a pair of patent infringement suits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (E.D. Tex.) in which Uniloc asserts a series of patents directed at conference call and voice over Internet (VoIP) technologies. The defendants, Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Internet services subsidiary Google and e-commerce giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), are the latest targets in a series of suits Uniloc has filed in the past year, many of which name recognizable consumer tech companies as defendants.
Although both cases are focused on telephony services, Uniloc is asserting different patents against either company. In its official complaint against Google, Uniloc lists three patents-in-suit:
- U.S. Patent No. 8724622, titled System and Method for Instant VoIP Messaging. It claims a system having a network interface connected to a packet-switched network, a messaging system communicating with a plurality of instant voice message client systems via the network interface, a communication platform system maintaining connection information for the client systems indicating if the clients are connected and then a user database storing user records identifying users of the client systems.
- U.S. Patent No. 7535890, same title as ‘622 patent. It claims an instant voice messaging system for delivering instant messages (IMs) over a packet-switched network which answers a need for providing local and global VoIP instant voice messaging with the support of public switched telephone networks.
- U.S. Patent No. 8995433, same title as ‘622 patent. It discloses a system having an instant voice messaging application which is useful for delivering instant voice messages to select recipients.
Uniloc’s suit against Google charges that Google’s Allo app infringes on the patents-in-suit. Allo, an IP-based voice and messaging app, delivers voice messages over a packet-switched network. Uniloc alleges that Allo either directly infringes upon the patents-in-suit or, if the court doesn’t find literal infringement, it infringes upon the patents under the doctrine of equivalents as they perform substantially the same function to achieve substantially the same result.
In Uniloc’s official complaint against Amazon.com, the company is asserting a three other patents directed at telecommunications innovations:
- U.S. Patent No. 8571194, titled System and Method for Initiating a Conference Call. It claims a non-transitory computer-readable medium containing computer instructions operable by electronic computer hardware to display instant messages in an IM session, display an indication to a first party that the second party is present, display an option to automatically initiate voice communication between the two parties and then request voice communication between the two parties.
- U.S. Patent No. 7804948, same title as the ‘194 patent. It claims a method for initiating a conference call which reduces the need to manually inform participants of a conference call of phone numbers, passwords or other information which is important to the conference call.
- U.S. Patent No. 7853000, same title as the ‘194 patent. It claims a method for initiating a conference call for a conference call requester using a network access device that informs a conference call server of the desire to initiate a conference call, to which the conference call server responds by using a connection bridge to call involved parties.
Uniloc alleges that Amazon Chime, a voice and messaging app marketed by Amazon.com, infringes upon the asserted patents. Uniloc’s complaint includes screenshots showing that Chime can be used to initiate conference calls among multiple participants by adding contacts to a list of parties to be included in the conference call and then presenting a phone icon to initiate the conference call with those contacts. Further, Chime has a Smart Presence feature which indicates the presence status of contacts. Again, if the court cannot find direct infringement, Uniloc is seeking a judgment of infringement under the doctrine of equivalents.
According to litigation campaign statistics maintained by RPX Corporation, Uniloc has filed a total of 49 lawsuits asserting patents included in either of the suits above, 44 of which have been filed since the start of 2016. Past Uniloc suits involving the above patents have been filed against Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), BlackBerry Corporation (NASDAQ:BBRY), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Snapchat, now Snap Inc. (NYSE:SNAP). Uniloc’s suit against Google is the fourth suit involving patents in the litigation campaign and the third filed against Google since the beginning of March.