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Google Talk faces patent lawsuit


A New York company is suing Google for patent infringement over the voice-over-Internet portion of its Google Talk instant messaging and voice chat program.

As reported by Gary Price in Search Engine, the lawsuit was filed by Rates Technology (RTI) in October. It alleges infringement on two of its patents for minimizing the cost of long-distance calls using the Internet.

Price's blog posting also links to this blog posting from April by TMCnet Publisher Rich Tehrani that said RTI makes money off filing patent infringement suits.

Google had a brief comment: "We believe the lawsuit is without merit and we will defend against it vigorously."

RTI President Jerry Weinberger returned a call seeking comment on Thursday and said his firm also has sued Vonage and Cablevision over patent infringement. Meanwhile, Rates Technology has received one-time technology usage fees from Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco, Lucent and others and is in discussions with eBay's Skype and Time Warner's AOL, he said.

"When a VOIP call can be transferred to the regular PSTN (telephone network), the switching of that call infringes our patents," Weinberger said.

Patent attorney John P. Ward said that although Google Talk is free now to users, RTI could argue that Google Talk is creating more online traffic for Google, which contributes to their profitability.

"Considering RTI appears to essentially be a patent holding company without a competing product of its own, an injunction shutting down Google's Google Talk VoIP product is unlikely," Ward said. "This would be a major factor for a court when determining whether to impose an injunction against Google to shut down Google Talk. RTI is certainly more interested in a compensatory recovery."