Cloud Patent-Holding Firm Sued By Microsoft Is Expanding IP Arsenal

Last week, Microsoft asked a federal court to preemptively block SynKloud from claiming OneDrive storage infringes its patents, as the self-described patent-licensing firm has done against Dropbox, Adobe and HP based on IP acquired from defunct startups. SynKloud looks to be expanding that patent portfolio into the speech recognition sector


Microsoft is taking the legal fight to a self-identified patent licensing firm that's been on a litigation tear against the industry's cloud storage giants—and recently armed itself with more intellectual property that could broaden that campaign to speech recognition providers.

Last week, the world's largest software company preemptively asked a federal court in Delaware to declare SynKloud had no basis on which to sue Microsoft for violating patents related to wirelessly networked cloud storage systems. While SynKloud had not actually filed a claim against Microsoft, it is coming off a year in which it sued a who's who of tech powerhouses: Dropbox, Adobe and, most-significantly, HP specifically for bundling Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage product on its PCs.

SynKloud is challenging those industry behemoths with almost a dozen patents derived from two long-defunct and non-consequential startups that worked in the 2000s on technologies related to how wireless devices store data on external servers.

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And the Delaware-based company's portfolio recently expanded as it purchased patents from another unheralded and inoperative developer called General Voice, as well as a Korean state-controlled research agency, according to RPX Insight, a researcher of patent-related issues.

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On its website, General Voice describes itself as a "pioneer in integrated voice recognition solutions." But the company, which offers its address as a P.O. box in Connecticut, appears not to have any products on market, and its listed contact number goes directly to an individual's voice mail.

A request for comment CRN left on that voicemail box has not been returned.

General Voice describes patents for telephone and Internet conference and speech recognition technologies and says it is "presently designing" a new speech recognition technology for ASICs to enable the capability on remote devices.

The other patent acquisition brought to light over the weekend by RPX Insight comes from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute. The Korean researcher has a history of transferring patents to American companies that have used them to sue Hauwei, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

SynKloud describes itself a "research and Intellectual Property Licensing company" that's focused on the cloud computing industry. The company was formed as an LLC in July of 2018. It doesn't name any founders on its Delaware Department of State registration page, as allowed under that state's law, nor any executives on its website.

Last year's federal lawsuits against Dropbox, Adobe's Magento division, and HP cite infringement of several patents purchased in 2018 from two startups formed in the early 2000s: Ximeta and STT WebOS.

Ximeta, led by founder and CEO Han-gyoo Kim, looks to have had some success more than a decade ago when it brought to market a proprietary "network-attached disk" technology it marketed as NetDisk. The product for connecting external devices to storage systems was sold in 2011 to IOCell networks.

That one-time vendor of network storage solutions is now looking to sell its web domain for $500.

STT WebOS, headquartered in Fremont, Ca. and still officially registered with the California Secretary of State, lists on a website a few products such as STT-iCom, which it describes as an "enterprise information sharing system."

The startup was founded in 2002 by Sheng (Ted) Tsao, who says on LinkedIn he has had more than 40 patents issued to him in web multitasking, storage and applications clouds.

But Tsao's LinkedIn profile suggests he moved on from STT WebOS in 2014—the company appears to not have been in business for years and calls to a listed phone number go directly to Tsao's voicemail. CRN has left a request for comment, but not yet heard back.

SynKloud's lawsuit against HP directly provoked Microsoft's motion for declaratory judgement on Jan. 2, through which the District Court could clarify the applicability of SynKloud's patents to Microsoft products.

SynKloud accused HP of infringing on three of its patents because, as a Microsoft OEM, the PC giant packaged OneDrive cloud storage into its products.

Microsoft noted SynKloud had previously sued some of its competitors' "counterpart cloud storage technology."

The spate of legal actions "have placed a cloud over Microsoft and its products," the Microsoft filing states. And SynKloud has made clear through its actions and public statements it "intends to enforce its patent portfolio broadly and generically against the entire cloud storage industry, and against Microsoft products specifically."

Microsoft's complaint goes on to run one-by-one through SynKloud's patents, and for each dryly state little more than OneDrive does not contain the technical specifications they enumerate.

Since 2007, Microsoft has sold OneDrive software that enables users to access cloud storage from their personal devices.

Neither Microsoft nor SynKloud responded to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

SynKloud's earlier lawsuit against Dropbox claimed a patent infringement because Dropbox servers operate with client-side Dropbox software that connects across wireless networks.

As an example, one specific claim in that case relates to a "system using a single host to receive and redirect all file access commands for shared data storage device from other hosts on a network."