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Friday, April 27, 2007

Mobile Companies Sued Over Ringback Tone Patents

A patent suit was filed Wednesday against eight mobile phone companies, including AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp., T-Mobile USA Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., alleging the various companies' ringback tone products infringe two patents.

Greenville Communications LLC filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. It claims its patents are infringed by a variety of mobile phone companies and their products, specifically the tones that callers hear when they dial a mobile phone.

The patents in suit are U.S. Patent Numbers 5,321,740, titled "telephone marketing system," and U.S. Patent Number 5,428,670, titled "communications marketing system." The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued them in 1994 and 1995, respectively.

The complaint lists the allegedly infringing products, including Verizon's Ringback Tones, T-Mobile's CallerTunes, AT&T's Answer Tones, Alltel Corp.'s Axcess Ringbacks, and Sprint and Boost Mobile LLC's Call Tones.

British mobile company Vodafone Group plc and German Deutsche Telekom AG were also named as defendants on the suit, though their allegedly infringing activities were not outlined in the complaint.

Greenville Communications claims that the defendants should have licensed the technology, and says the infringement is willful and deliberate.

"Defendants' infringement of Greenville Communications' exclusive rights under the '740 and '670 patents will continue to damage Greenville Communications, causing irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law, unless enjoined by this court," the complaint said.

Greenville Communications is seeking a permanent injunction against the infringing products, compensatory damages, treble damages, attorneys'
fees and court costs.

Representatives for Alltel, Sprint, AT&T and Vodafone said they had not yet been served with the complaint and declined to comment on pending litigation. The other mobile companies did not return requests for comment Thursday.

Amanda Ernst
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