When Sprint announced its forthcoming Instinct mobile phone earlier this week, one particular feature caught some industry watchers’ attention: visual voicemail. The Instinct has been criticized as a blatant knock-off of the Apple iPhone, and the addition of a visual voicemail feature—which enables users to manage and access voicemail messages using an onscreen interface—gives legs to the accusation. Visual Voicemail has been one of the most compelling features of Apple’s first foray into mobile communications.
However, Apple’s visual voicemail has also drawn fire, most notably from Klausner Technologies which sued Apple (along with others including AT&T, Comcast, and eBay) for patent infringement, claiming visual voicemail features violate patents covering visual display of audio messages. Klausner’s suit against Apple and AT&T over the iphone seeks $360 million in damages, along with a chunk of future iPhone royalties. Klausner has sued over these patents before, winning settlements from AOL and Vonage.
Looking to avoid an infringement suit of its own, Sprint today announced a patent licensing agreement with Klausner covering its visual voicemail service on the Samsung Instinct and other devices. “We are pleased to add Sprint Nextel to our growing list of licensees,” said Klausner CEO Judah Klausner, widely considered the inventor of the PDA. “Sprint’s Visual Voicemail service and Samsungs’s Instinct cell phone are excellent examples of our patented visual voice messaging technology.”
Terms of the license deal with not disclosed.