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September 06, 2013

Patent, Ownership Dispute over Fax Technology Leads to Lawsuit against J2 Global Communications

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

A person who says they played a key role in developing a system to send faxes by e-mail is now suing J2 Global Communications and others because of a patent and ownership dispute. Phyllis Huster, who lives in Seattle, sued her business partner as well, identified in the news media as Charles Bobo II, regarding nine patents.

The lawsuit, which was filed recently in Illinois federal court, relates to patents that led to technology which is believed to have earned tens of millions of dollars in revenue, according to a report from Law360.

The lawsuit claims J2 Global Communications saw net income increase from about $13.4 million to about $83 million between 2002 and 2010. 90 percent of that income was a direct result of the disputed patents, the lawsuit claims.

Huster is attempting to collect at least half of the revenue from the licensing and sales of patent rights. She also wants to be identified as the inventor, or at least co-inventor, of the technology.

Huster says she invented the “concepts” from the nine patents on her own or played a key role in their creation, news reports said.

However, the lawsuit claims, Bobo represented himself as the solitary inventor and owner of the nine patents.

Huster claims she started working on the concepts in the early 1990s. She claims to have been a consultant for NetOffice, which was identified in court reports as owned by Bobo. Bobo and Huster were planning to file patents as co-inventors as far back as 1995, Law360 reports based on her lawsuit.

"Ms. Huster has strong evidence that she invented the claimed fax-to-Web service herself, and that Mr. Bobo improperly filed the patents as sole inventor," John R. Crossan, the lawyer who is representing Huster, told Law360. "We will present that evidence and hopefully get a ruling from the court fairly quickly on her rights to these inventions."

The defendants could not be reached for immediate comment.

The defendants include: J2 Global Communications, Bobo, Advanced Messaging Technologies, Unified Messaging Solutions, and Acacia Patent Acquisition.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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