Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Preliminary Finding Invalidates VoIP Patent

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the most-wanted dept.

Patents 77

netbuzz writes "After a review, the US Patent Office has issued a preliminary finding that the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls 'an important first step in busting a patent that stifles innovation and the use of VoIP as a free speech tool.' (Here is the EFF's press release.) C2 Communications has used the patent to extract one-time payments from the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Free VoIP (3, Insightful)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 4 years ago | (#33677962)

Perhaps this will allow the Free VoIP providers to expand without having to worry about Death By Lawyer. Now where's my FIOS?

Re:Free VoIP (5, Interesting)

popeye44 (929152) | more than 4 years ago | (#33677986)

I have a question in cases like this, Assume you paid 1 billion dollars to this company. Can you now ask for it back because their patent was invalidated? "probably not I'm guessing"

Re:Free VoIP (1)

KillaGouge (973562) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678040)

I think that should be the case. That would help bring about change, although small. I believe that in most cases if you win a judgment, then it gets overturned, you have to give the money back.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678124)

That would be true - but in this case the predatory company was using the threat of a patent lawsuit to get companies to "license" their patent. The courts didn't have to be involved in a way that could be overturned.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

KillaGouge (973562) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678326)

Then the companies that were bullied should file a suit against the predatory company for extortion.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678488)

IANAL....

I think that such a suit would lose badly - since it would require that C2 did something illegal to get each company to sign on as a "licensee", or that C2 did not at that time have a patent [they did].

Of course, now that it is invalidated, if C2 continues to push people to license their patent... then they could run afoul of a lawsuit.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 4 years ago | (#33679076)

Well if the patent gets overturned wouldn't that invalidate the license? I have no clue thats why i'm asking

Re:Free VoIP (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 4 years ago | (#33681766)

No, not unless there was a clause in the contract. Even crazy-sounding clauses, like "we'll give you a free soda every Friday for 3 years" can be put into a contract - as long as a law doesn't exist to invalidate it. And since they had a patent, the license could have been a legal contract - but was moot once the patent was overturned.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680018)

They should sue the USPTO for issuing an invalid patent.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 4 years ago | (#33681798)

sigh

Ok - for better or worse, the U.S. government has to allow you to sue them.

Also - the job of the USPTO is to issue (or not) patents. This means that the USPTO and onlyauthority to issue patents. So - you can't sue them just because they did their job [regardless of whether or not you agree with the execution of their duties].

Oh, the sue-happy masses.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33682816)

The USPTO is charged with enforcing the validity of patents, that is, for rejecting applications for what would be an invalid patent.

Their extreme disregard for that duty is costing many billions of dollars. Why shouldn't they be held accountable?

I'm not personally a big fan of all the lawsuits, but in the case of the USPTO, appeal to sense of duty and fairness have fallen on deaf ears for years. Perhaps they should be forced to give up a portion of their rubber stamp budget. Or at the least they need a wake up call to remind them that they have actual responsibilities.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 4 years ago | (#33682946)

Ok, let's get three things straight:

First, I'm no fan of software patents or patenting "ideas". Patents on device implementations have a purpose, but not code.

Second, I think the USPTO does issue many patents on things which should never receive them.

Third, I hate witch-hunts, which seems to be the prevailing attitude towards the USPTO.

Does anyone besides me know how hard it is to do a patent search on a technology you don't understand, with only a limited time to do it (because they have a LOT of applications that need answering) with a small staff?

These are people you're demonizing - instead of doing that (which is intellectually dishonest and beneath you), you might try to actually think about how hard it is to get the job done for every ridiculous patent on a "free energy" machine, or how hard it can be to apply your expert knowledge of one area to a very detailed patent on an area you've never even heard of. [Am I the only one who realizes that there are thousands of areas of knowledge and certainly less than one USPTO patent researcher per fifty areas?

Perhaps I'm just getting old, but I think there's too many opinions - without reasoning - being voiced against the people at the USPTO, when we should be ticked off that there are so many useless applications with too few people to understand them. [I doubt there are too many software engineers there, or we'd never have had this stupid software patent issue to contend with.]

And that's the last I have to say in this topic.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33683378)

It's not the individual people at the USPTO, it's the organization as a whole. Yes, it's practically impossible to do a patent search on technology you don't understand, that's why they MUST either hire people who DO understand it or concede that they can't accomplish their charter at all.

USPTO mistakes cost billions and are ruining our ability to innovate. I like Joe down the street. He's a mechanic. That's great and he's a brilliant mechanic. I would still sue a hospital to the ground if they hired him to do neurosurgery!

Someone managed to patent teasing a cat with a laser pointer. Please tell me how hard it would be to find a cat owner amongst their ranks who could see that it's rather obvious and not substantially different than teasing a cat with a flashlight or any of the zillions of cat toys with strings.

My reasoning is simple. I know what they are supposed to do and I can plainly see from the tech news that it's not happening. Perhaps it's just not feasible to actually do it. If they would kindly let Congress know that, we can get the law changed to minimize the huge damage caused by pretending it's possible. Perhaps narrowing their scope and limiting patents in general until we reach a point where the job is tractable.

Re:Free VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33678800)

I don't think that would help at all. The companies would just go bankrupt, and the company owners would still have the money. Personal assets are off limits when it comes to company lawsuits.

Re:Free VoIP (4, Interesting)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678070)

IANAL, but I would think that if company A coerces company B into leasing rights to use a patented idea... then the contract would probably have a "too bad sucker" clause in it for just this possibility.

In other words: the contract would either specify the answer and preclude a lawsuit, or it would (foolishly) leave the issue unanswered which might encourage the suit.

Of course, even if companies sued and won the money back, they'd probably never see a penny - the company likely paid out all of its money to employees and/or stockholders. And you can't really sue them.

Re:Free VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33678158)

If this was the case, what's to prevent a lawsuit to get the money back?

Re:Free VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33678402)

The company with the patent is probably a shell corporation that owns just that patent, and pays some owner corporation $everythingithas in "management fees" or some bullshit like that.

If you sued it, it would just fold, and you'd get a broken patent (worth $0) and maybe a chair or a folding table. Maybe even a telephone if you're lucky.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

daremonai (859175) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678556)

Hey, Steve Ballmer will give you a chair for nothing. No lawsuit required. In fact, he'll even hand-deliver it.

Re:Free VoIP (2, Funny)

Rudeboy777 (214749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678702)

Hand-delivery unlikely. That chair is getting sent by air mail!

Re:Free VoIP (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678210)

IA(also)NAL, but I would guess that there's no way you could win a lawsuit on this. I guess I could offer GM a contract that says, "I will not sue you for using wheels on your cars in return for $5," and if they sign the contract, they owe me $5. I don't need to have a patent on wheels for the contract to be legitimate.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 4 years ago | (#33679468)

"I guess I could offer GM a contract that says, "I will not sue you for using wheels on your cars in return for $5," and if they sign the contract, they owe me $5. I don't need to have a patent on wheels for the contract to be legitimate."

Only GM won't let you $5 for nothing. The contract more probably would say something in the lines of "Due to Suecorp owning a patent on cars using wheels you can't use them without its consent. Suecorp hereby grants you consent in exchange of $5".

Re:Free VoIP (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680164)

Even if the contract mentions the patent, it doesn't seem like the company would be misrepresenting itself.

Re:Free VoIP (2, Interesting)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678510)

the company likely paid out all of its money to employees and/or stockholders. And you can't really sue them.

Can we get this changed? I understand not being able to sue an employee that was just doing a job, but "stockholders" are owners of a company. They benefit when it makes money and suffer when it loses money. Why don't they also benefit (as in no intervention) when it does so legally, and suffer (through jail or fines) when it does so illegally?

Re:Free VoIP (1)

Terwin (412356) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678574)

I think you can only due a stockholder/owner/partner when a given stockholder holds at least 5% of the stock.
Otherwise, they have no real say and so are not responsible for the actions of the company.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678610)

IA(still)NAL...

So if you invest in a company and the directors (or employees) get the company sued, then you are held responsible for their actions?

Not only will it never happen, but it's an entirely invalid line of reasoning. Just because I give Coca-Cola [or other company] money in good faith and they break the law... I should not be punished for it.

However - if a CEO or board member or employee knows about and approves of criminal behavior, then they are [in the U.S.] held responsible [at least in part] for the evil done.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678692)

Can we get this changed?

Sure. Just don't complain when no one ever wants to invest money into a company ever again.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678940)

I really wonder if it would be so bad. Instead of people putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into the banks of faceless corporations to get back a few percent, maybe they would try to actually make money with that money themselves. You know... start a business, hire a few employees. Why do they get what amounts to immunity for making money off evil just because they are only a small percentage of the pie, or because they had "good faith" (aka did no research)?

Just seems like a big lack of responsibility and accountability. To make this political, then why does Glenn Beck give a shit about "where the money comes from" so much? Why do New Yorkers care where the money for a mosque comes from? The people investing have no accountability, right?

Re:Free VoIP (2, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#33679534)

I really wonder if it would be so bad.

It would be. No one is going to invest in companies that they could be held personally liable for its actions. Why should some mutual fund investor (which make up a whole lot of investors) be held liable for the actions of some company just because the person running the mutual fund bought some stock in that company?

Just seems like a big lack of responsibility and accountability.

Most investors have little or no say in the day to day runnings of a company. It's not as if they have some direct feed into every single decision that the company makes or even have any sway at all over the day to day actions. So, no, it is not a lack of responsibility or accountability. If you want to hold someone responsible, you hold the person who authorized the wrong doing (usually some executive or board member) not the person who just happened to own stock in a mutual fund that owned stock in the company.

To make this political, then why does Glenn Beck give a shit about "where the money comes from" so much?

Because he's an blustering asshole? What Glenn Beck says or does means little to me.

Why do New Yorkers care where the money for a mosque comes from?

Because they are also assholes?

The people investing have no accountability, right?

It depends. If those people directly involved in the day-to-day running of the company and those people are directly responsible for ordering or personally carrying out a wrong-doing, yes. If it's some minority shareholder who has pretty much nil sway over how the company is run, no.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680212)

There should be SOME responsibility though, otherwise why not just invest in the Mafia or the local cocaine distributor? They DO have a rather large profit margin and a very loyal customer base.

If the stock holders bear NO responsibility for a corporation behaving in a legal and ethical fashion, exactly who is going to demand it of the board or the CEO? Especially when illegal or unethical practices can be so profitable.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 4 years ago | (#33684998)

It would be. No one is going to invest in companies that they could be held personally liable for its actions.

Why not? Risk just doesn't simply disappear. All you're doing is simply transferring the risk to others, mainly the customers and suppliers in this case. They become responsible for the shareholder's inattention. By insulating the shareholders from such risk you are distorting the market and that is a bad thing.

Having shareholder's keep closer tabs on company officers would be a very good thing. As it is now you have too many sociopaths using other people's money to control and manipulate. Responsibility should be, precisely, on the individuals who may gain advantage or disadvantage. A minor shareholder has minor advantage/disadvantage so they have minor responsibility. They do have some responsibility however.

---

I love the free market zealots who think monopoly is a good thing.

Re:Free VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33682160)

The whole point of the Limited Liability Company structure is that the investor's liability is limited to their investment. Directors, on the other hand, are personally liable, and if the shareholders direct them to do illegal acts, well, they do so knowing they are responsible. Their other option is to resign.

Re:Free VoIP (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#33679196)

As I understand it, that's usually the case, but once in a while, they're so confident in their bogus patents they'll agree to a money back clause. SCO made one, but I forgot who it was with. Of course, the subsequent legal wrangling and loss by SCO wiped out all their money, so I doubt that company got back any of the money it was owed.

Re:Free VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33678298)

Vonage: $24.99/month package actually costs $34 thanks to Verizon and other "fees".

Cue someone getting rich in 3, 2, ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33678026)

Lawyers, to be specific. I imagine that if there is any way to tie this up in legal issues, it definitely will be.

So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678090)

C2 Communications has used the patent to extract one-time payments from the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest

So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds? I'd bet lawyers are busy re-reading that contract/license.

Re:So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds (3, Informative)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678420)

"Why would we offer you a refund? We offered in exchange for your payment a promise that we wouldn't sue under this patent, and we aren't going to!"

Re:So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678976)

"Why would we offer you a refund? We offered in exchange for your payment a promise that we wouldn't sue under this patent, and we aren't going to!"

While that may be a perfectly acceptable argument to make how often does a perfectly acceptable argument prevent a lawsuit? Again, I'd have more faith in terms specified in the contract/license.

Re:So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds (2, Informative)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#33679306)

What you (and, apparently, the moderators) don't seem to recognize is, it is not a perfectly acceptable argument. (I was aiming for "funny", not "insightful", with that particular post. I kind of worry how far we've slid if that isn't obvious.)

What it is, is a satire of the sort of corporate weasle-speak that I would expect in that situation. Calling that argument "acceptable" sets up a form of legalized racketeering.

Patent licenses shouldn't be treated as protection money / promise not to sue. They should be treated as the purchasing of a right, which it turns out the seller had no authority to sell.

Re:So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33679852)

What you (and, apparently, the moderators) don't seem to recognize is, it is not a perfectly acceptable argument. (I was aiming for "funny", not "insightful", with that particular post.

Actually the attempt at humor (double entendre "we aren't going to") was recognized but it is overshadowed by the fact that the statement is perfectly acceptable in a legal sense. Your comic intent is less important than the legal wrangling, I addressed the later not the former.

Patent licenses shouldn't be treated as protection money / promise not to sue. They should be treated as the purchasing of a right ...

Promise not to sue vs purchasing a right, the two are essentially equivalent. if one fails to purchase the right the reasonable outcome is a lawsuit. The later phrase is just the lipstick on the pig, the pig being the ugly truth that it is the threat of a lawsuit that underlies any patent or copyright system.

... a right, which it turns out the seller had no authority to sell.

Actually at the time of the sale they did have the right, the patent was valid. Hence the plausibility of that statement you previously offered. It was not the best argument but you throw up a bunch and see if the judge bites on any of them.

Re:So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 4 years ago | (#33685032)

the patent was valid.

You are confusing the law with reality. In reality, that patent was not valid and that's the point the GP was making. The fact that lawyers and the PTO are fond of redefining reality is a major problem in itself.

---

Like software, intellectual property law is a product of the mind, and can be anything we want it to be. Let's get it right.

Re:So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33687568)

the patent was valid.

You are confusing the law with reality. In reality, that patent was not valid and that's the point the GP was making. The fact that lawyers and the PTO are fond of redefining reality is a major problem in itself.

Given that the law decides who gets fined, who goes to jail, etc the law is reality. You are confusing "what should be" with reality, unfortunately "what should be" is often fantasy.

Re:So can AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest get refunds (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680256)

Because what was offered was a license, but it turns out that you never actually owned what you licensed.

Finally!! (1)

CTalkobt (81900) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678108)

This will allow me to call my hot girlfriend who is just waiting for me on the other end of the line. Now I can do it via VOIP.

When I tell her about she'll be so enthused - I can just imagine her response now.

[ insert response below ]

Re:Finally!! (1)

popeye44 (929152) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678252)

I'll play,

Imaginary Slashdot Girlfriend: What the hell are you saying. What is this Vo-eep thing. Are you using it alone? How come I can't vo-eep with you? You don't love me!

I'm sitting here all alone while you have your vo-eep to keep you happy. That's it. between vo-eep and slashdot you never want to do anything. I hate you! Don't ever call me again.

"please apologize to your Mother, Tell her this in no way means I do not like her. I didn't mean it when I said she should move you out of the basement."

Undermining progress to profit extortionists (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33678178)

If Americans don't rein in software patents soon, they're eventually going to turn us into a technological backwater.

Can you imagine if mathematicians couldn't use certain types of calculations for 20 years if somebody else happened to use them first? What if fiction authors weren't allowed to use particular combinations of words if another author "registered" them for "protection"?

As a programmer, I'm continually amazed by how backwards, technically-illiterate politicians are tricked (or willingly lead) into outlawing technological advancement. Make no mistake, that's what software patents do. There are a bunch of rationalized lies about "protecting innovators" -- but in the real world, software patents exist solely to profit a few extortionists who use them as an easy way to gain market share without actually inventing anything.

In the real world, software patents do not protect innovations; they protect conceptual monopolists, and hinder actual innovations.

Re:Undermining progress to profit extortionists (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680448)

I tend to agree, but your post made me question whether it's software patents as a whole that are the problem, or the fact that so many are so bleeding obvious.

The thing the PTO needs to get their head around is that if the proposed invention is something any competent developer would devise if presented the problem, it shouldn't be patentable. If it's something that takes a competent developer blood, sweat, tears, time, and money to eventually puzzle out a novel solution, hmm, ok, maybe. In other words, if you invent something, I can see a patent. If you simply sit down and engage in what millions of software developers do every day, no.

Re:Undermining progress to profit extortionists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33683224)

> the fact that so many are so bleeding obvious.

That's subjective, not factual. It's obvious or not relative to what you know. If I knew how to make fire with sticks and patented it, how is that obvious or not? Knowledge of physics, material science, and chemistry all make the knowledge seem obvious.

Re:Undermining progress to profit extortionists (1)

suutar (1860506) | more than 4 years ago | (#33681454)

I personally just think it's a blessing that the patent system hasn't started extending the duration, like copyright has. I fully expect that nothing new will ever enter public domain again, because Disney will never again let the copyright on Steamboat Willie approach expiration.

Re:Undermining progress to profit extortionists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33681630)

Yep, while not all software patents are about math, IMO the most ridiculous thing about them is the fact that math is patentable just because it is executed on a computer.

Re:Undermining progress to profit extortionists (1)

Slashcrap (869349) | more than 4 years ago | (#33684770)

If Americans don't rein in software patents soon, they're eventually going to turn us into a technological backwater.

I know. Isn't it wonderful?

Correction (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 4 years ago | (#33685470)

I'm not shocked in the least by how backwards, technically-illiterate politicians are paid to outlaw technological advancement.

Fixed.

Re:Undermining progress to profit extortionists (1)

phoenix_rizzen (256998) | more than 4 years ago | (#33701144)

That's the problem with the current patent system in the States. Mathematical algorithms originally were not patentable. Software is really nothing more than mathematical algorithms. And yet, you find software patents, even purely algorithmic patents, running rampant.

I want to patent breathing. (1)

sir lox elroy (735636) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678226)

Then maybe I can start charging these patent trolls so much that they will have to stop, breathing that is.

Let's read the claims! (4, Interesting)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678276)

Claim 1:

1. A method of routing a full duplex telephone call between a first telephone set and a second telephone set using a public computer network as at least part of a communication link connecting said first and second telephone sets, comprising the steps of:

receiving at a first computer network access port a first telephone call from a central office placed from said fist[sic] telephone set initiating said full duplex telephone call, said first telephone call specifying a telephone number of said second telephone set, without specifying additional telephone destinations;

converting data received from the central office to an Intenet protocol;

establishing a communication link over said public computer network between said first computer network access port and a remote second computer network access port;

placing a second telephone call from said second computer network access port to said second telephone set using a PSTN;

converting data received from the public computer network from Intenet protocol to a PSTN protocol; and

connecting said first telephone call, said communication link and said second telephone call to thereby establish a telephone call between said first telephone set and said second telephone set.

A little broad, but then again it was filed in 1995 which is over a year before H.323 was even published. Note the requirement of a PSTN: If you are just making a VoIP call over Skype this patent does not cover that since there is no PSTN. In fact, and Pure VoIP call is outside the scope of this patent. I wonder if the EFF had been around in the 1870's if they would have been accusing Alexander Graham Bell of "stifling free speech" with the original telephone....

Re:Let's read the claims! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33678524)

A little broad, but then again it was filed in 1995

You've got to be kidding me.

If you believe that these concepts were particularly (or even remotely) innovative in 1995, you have either a very distorted view of history or very little understanding of the technology involved.

Helpful hint: the mere use of an acronym does not make your straightforward application of ancient concepts "new" nor "non-obvious."

Re:Let's read the claims! (1)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680120)

Good then you of course will produce all those wonderful references showing the state of technology in the mid 1990's. Note that this patent is NOT covering sending VoIP data over the Internet, rather it is covering interoperability of VoIP with a PSTN. Since unlike you I actually know what SS7 means, I can tell you that this was NOT some widely known technology in the mid 1990's. Sure, the telcos had digital backends for long-haul communications, but they were all circuit-switched backends. Packet-switched systems were NOT in vogue for voice communication and interworking was a problem that was still under active development for years after 1995.
    You seem to be suffering from the problem that many people here have, which is that a patent must be "obvious" because 15 years after it is filed the technology in the patent has gotten popular and is in every cellphone. That's why evidence from BEFORE the filing date is needed to prove obviousness, not the arrogant assertions Slashdot posters who can come to conclusions without the need of pesky things like "evidence".

trivial applications of things other people invent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33680648)

Good then you of course will produce all those wonderful references showing the state of technology in the mid 1990's.

Voice was transmitted over the internet since much earlier, certainly before the 1990s. Do you disagree?

Translating analog audio to digital and vice versa was done much, much earlier. Do you disagree?

Mathematical algorithms to do this efficiently and effectively have been around even longer.

Analog and digital audio were transmitted over various other networks long before the 1990s.

Many protocols for routing data in many different manners were in widespread use before the 1990s. In fact, they even constituted a thing you might have heard about existing: an internet.

Translating between digital protocols is a manner of implementation; the difficult parts are related to fundamental mathematical differences between protocols -- but the rest is usually trivial in concept, with technical complexity arising from arbitrary design differences, but nothing that really qualifies as inventive.

Translating between an external system and two endpoints on the internet is the very thing the internet was made to do.

Do you dispute that any of these things existed prior to 1990? If so, please tell me which, and I will construct a bibliography.

not the arrogant assertions Slashdot posters

The arrogance is in believing that these straightforward applications of protocols and algorithms constitute "invention" or "innovation."

Get over yourself. The difficult work underlying these patents is unpatentable, and the people who did that work generally aren't the ones making the money.

The difficult work is done by researchers, mathematicians, computer scientists, and experimenters -- none of whom get patents (nor can get patents) on these fundamental improvements of human understanding.

Businessmen (including some technically literate ones who strike it rich by grabbing and monopolizing the inventions of others) take these concepts, apply them trivially, and legally prevent anyone else from applying them in the same manner.

Re:Let's read the claims! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33682110)

I went to work for Cisco in 96, coming from Nortel. Both companies sure had PSTN-VoIP gateways by then. There was even an article in Wired at the time called 'bellheads vs. netheads' relating to ATM vs. IP as the future of packet switched voice. The whole notion of pstn gateways was well known in 95.

Re:Let's read the claims! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33684610)

I don;t think he needs to cite references to anything. It's obvious to anyone within even a faint grasp of reality and history

Re:Let's read the claims! (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#33684338)

Helpful hint: the mere use of an acronym does not make your straightforward application of ancient concepts "new" nor "non-obvious."

But it may fool a patent office into thinking it is. Which is probably the intention in the first place. Especially if the people employed by that patent office are not fully competent to evaluate the claims in the application.

Remember the Bell System (1)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678906)

They were granted a monopoly, because it was in the public interest to have only one, monolithic telephone system, but they had to submit to regulation as a Common Carrier. I'm one who argues that this should have been the case with the US cellular system. There has been a tremendous duplication of equipment by the various carriers (some of whom are defunct). There's no reason we need three different, incompatible air protocols (except to lock in customers). Every time I pass a cell tower with a half dozen antenna sets on it, I wonder what would have happened if we had one, standard specification (like GSM in Europe), and one, regulated provider. The downside is that the price would probably be higher :-(

Re:Remember the Bell System (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680328)

We'd probably have to rent all our phone equipment from AT&T, who would be in no hurry to update their network or services from what they originally installed. Or don't your remember telephony before the breakup?

Re:Let's read the claims! (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678930)

A little broad, but then again it was filed in 1995

No, that's pretty much what long distance companies were doing back in the mid 90s. Instead of the internet, they were digitizing calls through a private network, and reconstituting them on the other end. The basic idea is pretty obvious: take a call and route the long distance portion over a free network. That's the easy and obvious part. The hard part (especially in 1995) is the apparatus to digitize and reconsitute the call on the other end. What are the specifics, what makes it unique, and where is the reference invention to evaluate this against. The biggest obstacle to doing this in 1995 is that the network wasn't robust enough to handle the call. Lag times were so high that in most cases you had to buffer at least a second of audio in order to have a mostly clear conversation (that was the case in 1997, and I was, at the time, having voice chats with my girlfriend at another school).

Re:Let's read the claims! (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680458)

That's what the Bells have been doing since the '70s with ATM circuits. VoIP is just voice on top of IP protocols on top of digital voice circuits. Of course we're starting to see native ethernet circuits now.

Re:Let's read the claims! (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#33679454)

I wonder if the EFF had been around in the 1870's if they would have been accusing Alexander Graham Bell of "stifling free speech" with the original telephone....

Hmm...

On June 11 [2002], to little fanfare, the United State House of Representatives declared that the telephone was invented by an Italian-American named Antonio Meucci, a sausage and candle maker. Forget Alexander Graham Bell. The House declared that Bell's patent for the telephone was based on "fraud and misrepresentation."
http://hnn.us/articles/802.html [hnn.us]

Re:Let's read the claims! (1)

Zak3056 (69287) | more than 4 years ago | (#33682344)

A little broad, but then again it was filed in 1995 which is over a year before H.323 was even published.

Sure, H.323 was published in late 1996, but that didn't appear fully formed from nothing. I'm curious (a cursory search does not answer this question) how long the working group took to release their final spec--I'm willing to bet it took them at least a year or two, most likely long enough to pre-date the filing of this patent.

Your point about "obviousness" is very well taken, though--for sure, we tend to trivialize something hard that has been done in the past, because in the present it is easy and obvious ("A patent on transitors?! WTF, any electrical engineer could have come up with that!") but the mid-90s are fairly notorious for a rash of "doing the crap that's been done since the dawn of time... on the internet! " patents. An IP to PSTN gateway isn't a very large leap from just sending audio over the internet to begin with. Now, the specific implementation of a IP-PSTN gateway is likely another kettle of fish--but I, personally, cannot but see the idea of "connecting a voice network to a data network" to be anything other than "obvious," even without the benefit of hindsight.

Re:Let's read the claims! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33683274)

I wonder if the EFF had been around in the 1870's if they would have been accusing Alexander Graham Bell of "stifling free speech" with the original telephone....

They would if Graham simply patented taking off-the-shelf sound amplifiers and hooking them to the well-known two tin cans and a string. This is the kind of thing many current crap patents do.
   

Re:Let's read the claims! (1)

Slashcrap (869349) | more than 4 years ago | (#33684776)

I wonder if the EFF had been around in the 1870's if they would have been accusing Alexander Graham Bell of "stifling free speech" with the original telephone....

Yes, I bet that's exactly what would have happened, you unbelievable fucking faggot.

Interstitial video advertisement (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678378)

Well, *that's* the last time I click on a NetworkWorld link.

DIAF, NetworkWorld.

--
BMO

Re:Interstitial video advertisement (1)

iksbob (947407) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678620)

A flash-blocking browser plugin can do wonders.

Support the EFF (5, Informative)

cesman (74566) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678412)

This is a fine example of why one should support the EFF. https://w2.eff.org/donate/index.php

For More Information (4, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678502)

What's being announced here is a non-final office action in an ex parte reexamination. Basically, the EFF submitted some prior art that presented a 'substantial new question' of patentability and asked the Patent Office to review it. From there, the Patent Office and the patent owner hash things out; the prior art submitter's role is finished. (Prior art submitters can take a more hands-on role via inter partes reexamination, but that's more expensive and time consuming than ex parte reexam).

Reexamination cases are a little tricky to look up because you have to find the control number for the case. The control number in this case is 90/009637, which you can plug into Public PAIR [uspto.gov] . Here is the non-final office action [scribd.com] that is the subject of the post, since you can't link directly to documents in PAIR.

The patent owner will have an opportunity to respond to this non-final office action. If the examiner is satisfied, then that's that. More likely the examiner will not accept the arguments or will have discovered new ones. Typically there are one or two non-final actions and then a final action. After that, the patent owner can still appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. From the time of appeal to a decision is, at median, a couple of years. From there the patent owner could still appeal to the Federal Circuit.

So, while this is a preliminary finding, it is very far from definitive.

Re:For More Information (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33682396)

Anon Examiner here:

To further what you are saying the patent owner can also narrow the claims by adding additional limitations. Also while a new case will possibly have 2 non-finals and then a final, in Reexams it is very frowned upon to have more than one non-final action. Also reexams are done by a select group of examiners who have much more experience and are less likely to make a mistake.

On appeal the appellant can file a brief. The examiner then files an examiner answer to the brief. If the examiner brought up new arguments the appellant may file a reply brief. The appellant may also request a 15 minute oral hearing in front of the board (3 judges). The examiner may but never does orally respond for 10 minutes.

If they don't like the boards decision (agree with examiner) they can file a request for reconsideration. If this fails they can appeal to a CAFC panel, then to the whole CAFAC court sitting en banc, and finally appeal to the Supreme court would likely not take the case.

What's the sound... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33679364)

What's the sound of a disappearing patent on carrying voice over Internet?

VOIP!!

fucK?! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33681580)

Turn this around (1)

cavebison (1107959) | more than 4 years ago | (#33684138)

"AT&T has used the patent to extract one-time payments from the likes of C2 Communications."

Do you think the patent would be invalidated then?

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?