A little over a year ago, Google released an early preview of Google Voice, the web-based platform for managing communications. It was intended to have one number to ring all your phones, voicemail that works like email, free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, low-priced international calls and more—the only catch was you had to request and receive an invite to try it out. 3 days back, after lots of testing and tweaking, Google launched Google Voice to the US public, no invitation required.
On Tuesday when the Internet search giant Google opened the doors to Google Voice, its new communications service that links one phone number to multiple devices owned by the account holder, little did they know that they were soon going to get sued for launching it! The free service provides a new phone number which directs incoming calls to your mobile, home and office numbers.
Additional features include voicemail text transcriptions, which can then be sent to you via email or text message, free outbound domestic calls, super low-cost international calls, and free conference call setup. Google Voice began as a service called GrandCentral, which the web giant bought in 2007.
Google Voice Goes Public, Gets Slapped With a Lawsuit
Though with all the fanfare, it’s natural that not everyone is happy about the announcement. In that group? Frontier Communications Corp., who is suing Google over “a patent application for its invention that allows its customers to be reached on multiple lines from a single number“. Frontier claims that Google Voice infringes upon one of its patents, and is demanding that Google shut down the service and pay unspecified damages. Frontier operates phone, Internet and some television services in Elk Grove and parts of southern Sacramento County.
The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, said that Google’s deliberate infringement of the patent significantly and “irreparably” damaged Frontier. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company provides phone, Internet access, and satellite TV, and has seen a 1.5-percent drop in market value this year alone.
The patent in question–number 7,742,468 and entitled “Systems and methods for providing enhanced telephone services” — describes the Frontier invention as one that allows a subscriber “to be reached on multiple telephone lines from a single dial-in number.” Indeed, the description resembles Google’s new service.
But for hopeful Google Voice users, there’s probably not too much to fear. Google acquired Grand Central, the company that’s provided the basis of Google Voice, back in 2007 and took two years to rebrand it as Google Voice in 2009. It’s taken another year for Google to decide the service was ready for public consumption, so surely that’s given them plenty of time to plan for whatever potential challenges may arise.
“We believe these claims are entirely without merit, and we’ll defend against them vigorously,” said Andrew Pederson, a spokesman for Google, via e-mail.
To get a better sense of how Google Voice works, check out this two-minute video from the company: