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February 17, 2006

Nuance Claims Patent Infringement in Lawsuit Against Tellme Networks

Susan J. Campbell, Contributing Editor

A patent infringement lawsuit has been filed against Tellme Networks, Inc. in the United States District Court in Delaware by Nuance Communications, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Phonetic Systems, Ltd.
Nuance, a supplier of speech and imaging solutions, and Phonetic systems have stated in their complaint that Tellme infringes on their patents that cover such valuable features as directory assistance and call center applications, including the ‘whisper’ technologies and advanced database query techniques.
Monetary damages are sought by Nuance and Phonetic Systems for Tellme’s infringement in addition to injunctive relief to prevent Tellme from continuing to infringe US Patent No. 5,033,088, entitled, “Method and Apparatus for Effectively Receiving Voice Input to a Voice Recognition System,” and US Patent No. 6,256,630 entitled, “Word-Containing Database Accessing System for Responding to Ambiguous Queries, Including a Dictionary of Database Words, a Dictionary Searcher and a Database Searcher.”
Jo-Anne Sinclair, vice president and general counsel at Nuance stated that over time, Nuance has invested significant resources in developing technologies and building an intellectual property portfolio. Both are important components of Nuance’s strategy and integral to the company’s success.
Sinclair added that Nuance’s IP and technological assets favorable differentiate their directory assistance and call center solutions from other offerings. Nuance values its intellectual property and intends to diligently and vigorously protect its patent rights to prevent infringing use by others.
With more than 400 issued and pending patents around the world in the fields of speech and imaging technologies, Nuance has made a significant investment in research, development and the acquisition of intellectual property to provide its customers with unique, best-of-breed solutions. The company intends to continue its drive for innovation through the patenting of proprietary technologies.
In the highly competitive arena of mobile device technologies, one that is gaining momentum is the advances in speech technology for the mobile phone. Hands-free sets are in higher demand than ever due in part to the push for safe driving practices while talking on the cell phone.
It is not enough anymore that a consumer be able to press a button to make a call and then talk hands-free. Voice activation is in higher demand than ever to make full use of mobile devices and their available features. For companies like Nuance who have invested heavily in this technology, patent protection is essential. Consumers and manufactures are demanding accurate and efficient speech technology software. In order to maintain its position in the market, Nuance must not only be aware of what the competition is doing, but also how close it is to the protected technologies that the company owns.
Beyond voice recognition in the cell phone market is Nuance’s significant investments in applications for the call center. This market is consistently changing and demanding better software and database applications to be able to deliver exceptional customer service. Nuance has maintained a strong position in this market and must protect its intellectual rights to ensure its future strategies. Whether or not Tellme has actually infringed upon Nuance’s rights is yet to be determined. However, because the implication is there, Nuance must make the public statement that it will take the necessary steps to protect its technological assets.   
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.

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