In a recent development set against the backdrop of ever-increasing cloud competitor lawsuits, longtime provider of Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and cloud-based Voice over IP (VoIP) solutions RingCentral filed a patent infringement suit last month against competitor Dialpad in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In its 22-page Complaint filed on August 27, 2018, RingCentral alleges direct and indirect infringement of four of its patents granted between 2010 and 2017 by several of its competitor’s VoIP offerings, namely Dialpad Standard, Dialpad Pro, Dialpad Enterprise, Dialpad Free, UberConference Free, and UberConference Business. RingCentral has been on the receiving end of its fair share of patent infringement suits over the last several years, but this appears to be the first case in which RingCentral has gone on offense as a patent plaintiff.
RingCentral, known for its comprehensive set of business communications offerings, provides its customers the functionality to connect multiple user devices to communicate seamlessly through audio calls, voice and text messages, faxes, and audio and video conferencing. Since its founding, the Belmont, California-based company has amassed over 150 patents related to cloud-based communications solutions. As just one measure of its success, in 2017, a report published by Synergy Research Group—an independent market research firm—recognized RingCentral as the worldwide market share leader in both revenue and subscriber seats for UCaaS solutions. RingCentral has also been recognized as a 2017 PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice for Business VoIP solutions and has earned TMC’s 2017 WebRTC Product of the Year Award.
While RingCentral appears to have dominated the UCaaS space for some time, Dialpad—a relatively young San Francisco-based company co-founded as Firespotter in 2011 by Craig Walker (creator of Yahoo! Voice and Google Voice) and adopting its current namesake in 2016—has also amassed its share of accolades during its young existence. Along with RingCentral, Dialpad boasts its appearance on Deloitte’s 2017 Technology Fast 500 list, and was also a recipient of TMC’s 2017 WebRTC Product of the Year Award. Additionally, in 2016, TMC Labs awarded Dialpad a winner of its IT Innovations Award for their advancements in VoIP solutions.
RingCentral’s asserted patents generally relate to (1) routing messages over the internet between a subscriber of a PBX system to one or more devices outside of the subscriber system, (2) combining audio, visual, and call control features to create and support a flexible collaboration environment, and (3) managing cloud-based heterogeneous messaging systems with multiple connected user devices. According to RingCentral, in entering the UCaaS and cloud VoIP markets, “Dialpad heavily leveraged RingCentral’s innovations … to offer its competing product lines but did so without a license or permission.” (see Complaint, ¶10). RingCentral seeks a permanent injunction against Dialpad’s alleged infringing conduct, as well as monetary damages and a judgment that the case is exceptional thereby entitling RingCentral to enhanced damages. (see Complaint’s Prayer for Relief, ¶¶a-i).
As this is the only lawsuit, patent or otherwise, RingCentral has pursued as a plaintiff in recent memory it will be interesting to see how the case unfolds. Currently, the case is in its infancy and Dialpad has yet to file an Answer. Interestingly, in 2011 RingCentral asserted one of the four patents asserted in the present case in a counterclaim to a patent infringement suit brought by j2 Global Communications, another California-based provider of business cloud services such as OneBox, eVoice, and eFax. That case, however, was ultimately dismissed with prejudice in 2013 as result of a settlement and patent cross license agreement. Fast forward five years later, and the 2018 post-Alice era is a considerably more challenging landscape for asserting patents on software-related technologies. With that said, RingCentral might take comfort in the fact that warding off patent eligibility attacks seems to be improving as Alice is applied more predictably and consistently by the USPTO and the courts.