Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Texas-based Estech Systems targets car makers Toyota and BMW in rapidly expanding VoIP patent assertion campaign

There's a gut instinct when a patent holder based in the Lone Star State files patent infringement lawsuits in the Eastern District of Texas against famous companies: "Oh, another non-practicing entity." (or "troll" as some would call it)

While Cisco dislikes certain patent enforcement tactics employed by Estech Systems ("ESI"), Estech is not a "patent troll." According to its website, the company was founded in 1987 and "has sold over 400,000 phone systems and deployed more than three million phones nationwide." ESI claims to have been "the first company to build a truly combined telephone and voice mail system, as well as the first to build a purely IP-based business communications system, and has numerous patents granted or pending on its products' unique designs and capabilities."

ESI started asserting cetain Voice over IP (VoIP) patents a while ago, but in recent days has filed a number of additional complaints. Here's a very recent one targeting Toyota (this post continues below the document):

22-01-03 Estech v. Toyota C... by Florian Mueller

I've also uploaded to Scribd ESI's complaint against another car maker: BMW.

ESI is asserting four patents:

Only the first one has expired, limiting Estech's potential relief to a damages award. The other three patents are still alive, and Estech is seeking not only damages for past infringement but also injunctive relief over them. Estech alleges willful infringement in the form of willful blindness:

"Defendants have a policy or practice of not reviewing the patents of others (including instructing its employees to not review the patents of others), and thus has been willfully blind of Estech’s patent rights."

What I do know is that patent holders generally find car makers very difficult to deal with, and BMW has a reputation for being particularly slow to respond to infringement notices.

Estech is represented by local IP litigation firm Williams Simons & Landis. Those lawyers may still be busy finalizing additional complaints, and chances are that Toyota and BMW are not the last car makers to have been sued by Estech.

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