Viber Faces Ban In Korea As SK Telecom Wins Probably Broad-Ranging Patent Go well with

Viber Faces Ban In Korea As SK Telecom Wins Potentially Wide-Ranging Patent Suit

Free calling and messaging service Viber could possibly be banned in South Korea, after the corporate misplaced a patent go well with to home operator SK Telecom.

Korea Herald stories that a courtroom dominated in favor of SK Telecom’s declare that Viber’s “function of reorganizing chosen info from contact numbers saved in a smartphone into the appliance” violated a 2006-registered patent from the operator.

SK Telecom sued Viber, which was purchased by Japanese e-commerce agency Rakuten for $900 million final yr, again in November. Initially, the operator pursued 4 patents, nevertheless three have been dismissed in the course of the courtroom’s investigation.

Viber CEO Talmon Marcus advised TechCrunch that the firm is “at present learning the matter” earlier than it releases an extended assertion. Representatives from SK Telecom didn’t reply to our requests for remark.

The quick implication of the ruling shouldn’t be clear. There’s not been an official announcement that Viber is blocked, though SK Telecom advised Korea Herald that its iOS and Android apps can be outlawed within the nation.

The actual story right here just isn’t about Viber, however the potential implications of the patent on different messaging apps.

Patents As Weapons

The patent in query is extremely obscure. Given the similarities in design and performance of just about all chat apps, it’s believable that it could possibly be used for litigation towards many different messaging providers.

One in notably is more likely to be in SK Telecom’s considering: Kakao Speak. The free calling and texting app is considered put in on extra ninety five % of smartphones in Korea, and its reputation led to mum or dad Kakao merging with Korean net big Daum in a $three billion deal final yr.

Kakao Speak doesn’t have the worldwide attain of WhatsApp, Fb Messenger, Line, WeChat and others, however it’s completely dominant in Korea. Korean shoppers use it to make free calls and ship free messages, to not point out play video games. The previous two factors anger operators which resent that a free app (that runs on their community) is slicing into their potential income from voice and SMS providers by providing each totally free.

We all know that SK Telecom and different Korean operators don’t like Kakao, since they ‘throttled’ the Kakao Speak service when it first emerged as a menace.

Viber The Check Case

Marcos beforehand informed Korean media that the lawsuit was a “shock,” since Viber doesn’t have a very giant following within the nation. That’s necessary as a result of it provides SK Telecom a good check case via which it could possibly asses the potential to make a extra reputable, courtroom-led transfer towards Kakao Speak.

Whereas SK Telecom didn’t reply to our requests for remark, it did present a quote to Korea Herald which doesn’t rule out the potential of future litigation.

“The [patent win against Viber] doesn’t essentially imply that it’ll unfold to different messenger apps like Kakao Speak. We now have not reviewed such strikes,” an official from the operator is quoted as saying.

A Menace To Operators

The tl;dr right here is that operators don’t like having their already shrinking margins lowered by chat apps. Whereas many in rising markets truly work with the likes of WhatsApp, Line and Fb to promote packaged knowledge bundles and providers to their clients, South Korea is a unique place.

The nation has a extra mature telecom market, and it’s one the place operators have already got a lot of their buyer base on postpaid offers with knowledge contracts. Multimedia and worth-added providers are essential potential progress areas for operators, however Kakao Speak is a thorn of their aspect. That’s as a result of the service has develop into a portal for video games and multimedia providers, which primarily leaves telecom operators to take the position of ‘dumb pipe’ that supplies the info providers to energy them. Operators would clearly like larger involvement (and income) than that.

This patent — regardless of how obscure — might characterize a bargaining chip, or alternative to vary the established order in Korea in favor of SK Telecom and different operators.

It’s nonetheless early days although, and KakaoTalk has not been on the receiving finish of motion from SK Telecom.

“We’re conscious of the SKT-Viber ruling, we haven’t acquired or heard of something re KakaoTalk from SKT or different operators relating to it presently,” a spokesperson for Daum Kakao informed TechCrunch.

Don’t be stunned if that state of affairs modifications within the not too distant future.