Viber Faces Ban In Korea After Losing A Patent Suit
South Korea’s The Seoul Central District Court has declared Viber infringer on four of patents held by local mobile operator SK Telecom.
In October 2014, SK Telecom filed a case against Viber for including a feature in its app which, according to SK Telecom, was a copyright infringement by Viber. The court has verified SK Telecom’s claim that Viber “feature of reorganizing selected information from contact numbers saved in a smartphone into the application,” was in violation of one of the SK Telecom’s copyrights, observes Korea Herald.
After losing lawsuit against SK Telecom, Viber has been banned from distributing its iOS and other android apps in the country, reports Yonhap News Agency.
Giving the company’s response on court verdict, a spokesperson from SK Telecom said: “The ban will be imposed both on the Android and Apple iOS platforms. We have not yet heard from Viber whether it will bring the case to the higher court. The lawsuit came as Viber evidently infringed our patent rights.”
He further said that SK Telecom wasn’t looking to take other similar apps in the courts.
Why did SK Telecom go against Viber while the feature in question is shared by many other messaging apps including Kakao’s KakaoTalk which, having 37 million users, is highly popular in South Korea? The answer is: probably due to the fact that Viber is not very popular in the country. So it became an easy prey.
Earlier it was rumored that SK Telecom was planning to initiate similar proceedings against other messaging apps in order to block them and, thus, force consumers look back towards SMS for communication purposes. Which could generate it massive revenue.
TechCrunch cites Viber CEO Talmon Marcus who said that his company is “currently studying the matter.” However, Viber has not given its detailed response on the ruling.
Leaving Viber and SK Telecome’s court fight aside, the issue of infringement is very complex. Because it is nearly impossible for an app to function without having a similarity in functions of any other competitor. The front fact is that almost all the apps share similar designs and perform similar functions. So the lawsuits can possibly be biased?