Los Angeles – In the 1980s, Ronald Katz secured approximately 50 patents related to what would otherwise be considered a rather simple solution: technology that links a telephone to a computer. And if you operate a call center that uses telephony integration or interactive voice applications patented by Ronald A. Katz Technology Licensing L.P., you are probably familiar with the power of his technology—and the might of the licensing behind it.

The latest insurer to publicly face this might is Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., which has agreed, as part of a patent litigation settlement, to pay an undisclosed sum for a nonexclusive license under a comprehensive portfolio of patents that Katz owns relating to interactive voice applications. The license covers services offered by WellPoint Inc. in the "Automated Health Care Services" field of use, including customer service delivered through automated systems and live agents. Other terms of the license were not disclosed.

WellPoint is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, and serves its members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as Blue Cross Blue Shield in 10 New York city metropolitan and surrounding counties and as Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), Wisconsin; and through UniCare.

According to Katz, there are more than 200 companies with license rights under this portfolio, including some heavy hitters across all vertical markets, such as American Express, AT&T, the Gallup Organization, Delta Air Lines, IBM, Nationwide, Principal Financial Group Inc., Prudential Financial Inc. and Wachovia Corp.

The patents held by Katz’s company cover a wide range of interactive technologies, including automated forms of customer service, prescription refill services, securities trading, merchandising, prepaid services, telephone conferences, registration, home shopping, as well as functions involved in securing information from databases by telephone, interactive cable transactions and various other uses of toll free and local numbers.

As reported by Insurance Networking News in August 2005, since the 1990s, Katz has collected an estimated $1 billion in licensing revenue. Katz's patents expire in 2009, at which time he could conceivably collect up to $1 billion more, some of which is coming from insurers’ coffers.
Katz’s patents don’t apply just to telecommunications. He also formed Telecredit Inc., the nation's first online, real-time credit and check cashing authorization system, and was awarded a patent as co-inventor of the technology.

Source: Business Wire, INN archives

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