A fourth lawsuit
against Apple over alleged infringement of patents used by FaceTime has been filed, this time by Straight Path Group. The lawsuit, filed in the Northern California District Court, claims that FaceTime infringes on five patents previously owned by NetSpeak, which made the popular VOIP application WebPhone in the mid-1990s. As with previous suits underway by patent trolls VirnetX
, and Uniloc
, the suit covers older and more general audio-video patents allegedly used by Apple in its FaceTime and Messages technologies.
The NetSpeak patents were acquired by Adir Technologies in 2001, after competitors drove NetSpeak into dire straits. Adir sold off its NetSpeak patents in 2003, which is presumably where Straight Path Communications (the parent company, which is still a practicing entity) acquired them. The patents (US Patents 6,009,469
; and 7,149,208
) cover point-to-point communications between apps or devices using IP addresses and real-time video and audio conferencing.
The case is a revival of a case Straight Path's 2014 lawsuit, which was dismissed in 2015. It isn't clear what has changed or been amended since the failure of the first lawsuit, but the company again alleges that its patents cover network discovery and the establishment of device connections to foster communication applications using IP addresses. Straight Path claims that Apple is infringing on the patents by using a open standard -- Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) -- to facilitate the point-to-point communications. The company is seeking unspecified damages and "other relief."