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EFF Patent Busting - Prior Art Needed for VOIP 170

Posted by Zonk
from the who-you-gonna-call dept.
JumperCable writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking to bust an overly broad patent by a company called Acceris. Acceris claims patents on processes that implement voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) using analog phones as endpoints. These patents cover telephone calls over the Internet. Specifically, the claims describe a system that connects two parties where the receiving party does not need to have a computer or an Internet connection, but the call is routed in part through the Internet or any other 'public computer network'. The calls must also be 'full duplex', meaning that both parties can listen and talk at the same time, like in an ordinary phone call. To bust these overly broad claims, we need 'prior art' — any publication, article, patent or other public writing that describes the same or similar ideas being implemented before September 20, 1995."
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EFF Patent Busting - Prior Art Needed for VOIP

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  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:15AM (#18645023) Homepage Journal

    Specifically, the claims describe a system that connects two parties where the receiving party does not need to have a computer or an Internet connection, but the call is routed in part through the Internet or any other 'public computer network'.

    In CB radio, and possibly Amateur (Ham) radio you could have a phone patch device which would interface between the radio transciever and the phone system. With two such gadgets you could bridge a gap in the PSTN. Not really legal with amateur radio as you were not supposed to compete with commercial services.

    I am sure that emergency services used phone patches on their VHF radios, though. Some documentation on that might be of some use.

    TFA talks about it being full duplex. The impression I have is that this system would have used one frequency and a VOX to switch between transmit and recieve. It is possible there were true full duplex systems though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by NfoCipher (161094)
      >In CB radio, and possibly Amateur (Ham)
      You've got that reversed.

      >Not really legal with amateur radio as you were not supposed to compete with commercial services.
      Autopatch [wikipedia.org] has been and still is "legal".

    • by Andy_R (114137) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @08:48AM (#18645461) Homepage Journal
      Not over the internet, or using intetnet protocol, so it's not VOIP.

      (note to mods: I know I've posted this 3 times in reply to different people, but I maintain it's not redundant until people actually grok the concept and stop posting/modding up non VOIP references.)
      • by Maxwell (13985)
        Who ever said VOIP? The requirement is "over a public computer network". The internet was not the first public computer network. Did CompuServe ever allow voice calls? How about BBS's? Fido?

        The patent is overly broad. So we are NOT stuck to "VOIP only" to break it...sheesh!!

        JON
      • by hankwang (413283) *

        Not over the internet, or using intetnet protocol, so it's not VOIP

        The actual patent [uspto.gov] says "internet OR computer network", although I give you that the claim indeed explicitly mentions "an internet protocol".

        But note that the set of statements in a patent claim can be invalidated by a wider type of prior art. So a claim of using internet for some purpose is invalidated by prior art that does exactly the same thing on a computer network, since internet is just one type of computer network.

        So if HAM radi

        • by innosent (618233)
          I wonder if ATM would count, as ATM networks could be considered "computer networks", and Packet-Switched voice over ATM is essentially like VoIP, just VoATM. This would probably mean that another (older) patent would protect it, one that might already have expired.
    • KA9Q Packet radio was in existance before 1995. It would integrate with normal IP, and was used extensively in Brasil and several remote locations for TCP traffic. I wonder if anyone put a phone into the picture.
      • by belg4mit (152620)
        I know my best friend's father used Packet radio with his PC,
        I was under the impression he somehow used it for free long distance.
    • by zappepcs (820751)
      However, it was not illegal for Trunked radio systemms. These are the kinds of radios that you see in police, fire, ambulance, and rescue vehicles. In 1986 I was working on such systems. The included a 300bps control channel, 4wire-2wire adapters (that were difficult to balance) and later full duplex audio.

      While it maybe was an is illegal for Ham operators to connect to phone lines, they did so during wars to help sailors make phone calls back home.
  • by rs79 (71822)
    Didn't vocalteck do this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Andy_R (114137)
      Yes, the linked article says the EFF are specifically looking for proof that VocalTec or Net2Phone were doing this before 20th September 1995.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by JonathanR (852748)
        The company I worked for (Automotive parts manufacturing) between Sept '95 and Jan '97 had a system where interstate (non-local) calls could be routed through their leased data lines. There was a dialling prefix for each endpoint node. The data lines were ordinarily used for warehouse inventory/stock control operations (I think it was a VAX/VMS system, so I'm not sure what networking protocols were used for these data links). This was introduced halfway through my period of employment there, and given t
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Spamalope (91802)
          We did that at Leasing Associates from roughly 1993 until early 2006 using Datarace (brand) equipment - voice, compressed and full duplex. Certainly voice as a sideband over whatever leased line you've got was very common before 1995. All of the mux manufacturers had equipment to do it. The datarace equipment could route TCP/IP, but the equipment encapsulated each type of traffic and sent it to the other mux via a proprietary protocol to the other mux.

          There were ISDN router boxes touted around that time as
      • I graduated college in May 1995 and used Vocaltec myself back in the day. I particularly remember that proggie because as far as I know.....it was never cracked. ;)

        So yea, I can vouch that Vocaltec/Net2Phone was around back in 1994-1995 and had software "out on the market". If I recall right, the company was Israeli.

  • by mangu (126918) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:15AM (#18645029)
    The way it was described in the blurb, I guess the oldest implementation is mentioned here. [wikipedia.org]
  • by vivaoporto (1064484) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:21AM (#18645061)
    Maybe EFF already has the answer [eff.org], depending on how long AT&T is routing all phone calls through NSA network. They would even kill two birds with one shot, the subpoena to obligate AT&T to disclose the info could come from the patent suit. It's a win-win! What could possibly go wrong?
  • VOIP Prior Art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by azrider (918631) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:27AM (#18645087)
    Not sure if it was patented, but in the 70's when I worked for IBM, all office extensions worldwide went through the "tie-line". This was a linkup that used the massive IBM internal global network to make calls, i.e. I call Tokyo from LA and the call never touches the PSTN apparatus. Indeed, it never left the building on anything other than data lines. The phones at the desks were plain old analog WE2500 sets.
      • by MoogMan (442253)
        Valid prior art would be some form of H.323 to PSTN gateway (called a H.323 Gatekeeper), or maybe any sort of way to bridge PSTN with IP.

        FWIW, Cisco's IOS v11.3 [wikipedia.org] implemented this functionality, which puts it around 1999 [cisco.com]

        The PDF to the H.323 standard is at http://www.itu.int/rec/dologin_pub.asp?lang=e&id=T -REC-H.323-200606-I!!PDF-E&type=items [itu.int] but I believe it was finalised in 1996, which puts it a bit too late. I think we'd need to be looking at SS7 Gateways to bust this patent.
        • I knew someone who was an employee of AT&T who was involved in the first VOIP call using a Sonus media gateway. Since Sonus was founded in 1997 I doubt that this occured prior to 1995.

      • by Intron (870560)
        Network Voice Protocol [wikipedia.org] was demonstrated in 1973 and standardized as RFC 741 [ietf.org] in 1976. Stated goal:

        "to develop and demonstrate the feasibility of secure, high-quality, low-bandwidth, real-time, full-duplex (two-way) digital voice communications over packet-switched computer communications networks"

        Everything else in the patent (like using standard telephones at the ends) is pretty obvious.
    • by Andy_R (114137)
      Unless IBM were using internet protocol (the IP in VOIP) a decade before the internet started, then that's probably not prior art.
      • OTOH if you can send voice as data, then sending arbitrary data over the internet is, to use the technical term, "Blindingly obvious" to anyone adequately skilled in the art.

        Otherwise, I claim keeping text in a computer file.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Andy_R (114137)
          Prior art (which kills your 'text in a computer file' patent) is the easiest way of dealing with these patent trolls. While "it's blindingly obvious" is technically a valid reason to get patents struck down, it's tough to make such historical a value judgement stick in court, dealing with facts is what coursts are best at. Otherwise it either ends up in the old whoever has the most lawyers wins situation, or worse the transcript reads like this:

          EFF: "Your Honour, this idea is obvious, you'd have to be a bli
        • by kilodelta (843627)
          WRT sending voice as data, the incumbent carriers have been doing it that way for the past thirty years.
    • Re:VOIP Prior Art (Score:5, Informative)

      by Andy_R (114137) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @09:06AM (#18645537) Homepage Journal
      Sorry, if the IBM system never touches PSTN as you describe, then this fails part 4 of the EFF's list of features the prior art needs to have:

      From the EFF site: CRITICAL FEATURES OF PRIOR ART NEEDED:

            1. The system must have the ability to connect an audio telephone call from a calling party to a receiving party.
            2. The telephone call must be "full duplex," meaning that both parties must be able to talk and listen at the same time. For example, regular telephone calls usually are full duplex, whereas walkie-talkie conversations in which a person cannot receive transmissions from others while he or she is transmitting generally are not.
            3. An ordinary telephone and telephone line are the only equipment the receiving party needs to have. The receiving party does not need to have a computer or an Internet connection to receive the call.
            4. The transmission of the call is routed in part through a "public computer network" and in part through the PSTN. This implies that the transmission must cross at least one gateway between the "public computer network" and the PSTN. The Internet is one example of a "public computer network," but the patent does not define what else would qualify as a "public computer network."

      Additional Features:

            1. The caller must only have to dial the destination number and no additional phone numbers
      • Lets see, the entire ISDN standard is awash with places where the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) is bridged to the packet switched "public network" of the ISDN networks run by the various providers.

        ISDN phones directly call regular analog voice phones as well.

        So there is no "Internet Protocol" but there are both required "public" networks.

        Voice over Frame Relay and X.25 was old hat for the "Dimension" premises telephone switches sold and rented by AT&T back in 1986.
    • It wasn't over 'data lines'. Tie lines connect one PBX directly to another. This can be done privately, but are usually done via a (or many) carriers. The trunks that carried voice were not data trunks. It's not prior art.
    • by Brickwall (985910)
      Er, who did you think provided those "tie lines"? AT&T, Centel, and all the other public phone companies. And once the calls reached the CO, they were routed over the PSTN just like every other call. If you think IBM created their own facilities, you're deluded.
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:38AM (#18645125)

    This is ridiculous. All this patent covers is bridging between the Internet and POTS networks. It shouldn't need "prior art" to be struck down, it should be struck down merely because it's fucking obvious! I mean, it'd be one thing if it were a patent on one particular clever method of connecting the two networks, but the idea in general should not have been patentable in the first place.

    • by pla (258480) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @08:30AM (#18645345) Journal
      All this patent covers is bridging between the Internet and POTS networks. It shouldn't need "prior art" to be struck down, it should be struck down merely because it's fucking obvious!

      I don't think it does count as that obvious. If you remember the earliest days of free internet telephony, the biggest limitation (aside from the annoying lag) came from needing both parties to have a computer with an always-on connection (or risk missing calls).

      Companies like Vonage exist to make a free service un-free solely because they act as a POTS bridge. Think about that. People will pay for something free (well, "free" presuming you would have intenet access anyway) because that one little "fucking obvious" step counts as such a massive leap forward in functionality.



      The USPTO has made some phenomenally bad calls in the past, but I don't know if I can really disagree with this one.
      • Hi,

        I think there's a difference between *useful* and *obvious*. With regards to the obviousness clause, all that matters is that the claimed invention not be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made. So if its functional or not, the idea is that if an average given person with ordinary skill in the art could have conceived the same thing, it's not a valid patent.

        Of course, this is all pretty irrelevant, as the Federal Circuit pretty much gutted the obviousness clause

    • by billcopc (196330)
      The "fucking obvious" problem is that you need a number to call to/from, and that number is not an IP address. The technical aspect of VoIP companies is trivial, just convert the sound to digital and ship it off to its destination... but the way things are today, you still need a POTS at the receiving end if they don't have VoIP. That's not technically difficult, it just requires money to rent the landlines from Ma Bell. VoIP "carriers" oversell landlines much like ISPs oversell bandwidth or modem banks
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jambarama (784670)
      The problem isn't the *obvious* issue. I mean, it wasn't obvious to me in 1995, or most other people I'd wager. The problem is the scope of the patent. No one should be able to patent "processes that implement voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) using analog phones as endpoints." It is way to broad. Acceris should hold a patent on A SINGLE process to implement VoIP. You shouldn't be able to patent an end result, just the specific way you used to get there. Patents like this make clean room reverse en
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by arth1 (260657)

        The problem isn't the *obvious* issue. I mean, it wasn't obvious to me in 1995, or most other people I'd wager.

        Back in '94, I was talking over speakfreely to an overseas friend on my Indy when my mother dropped by, and asked what I was doing. I told her, and she thought that would be horribly expensive since I was talking to someone on the other side of the planet. When I told her that it used the internet connection, so I only paid for the internet connection (mind you, a 128 kbps BRI was expensive enoug

  • by scsirob (246572) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:38AM (#18645129)
    How about this link: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1161458,00.as p [pcmag.com]

    It describes a voice adapter for Artisoft LANTastic in 1990. I used to operate a LANtastic network but didn't use the voice adapters. However, it seems to fit the 'prior art(isoft)' requirement ;-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gravis777 (123605)
      Interesting, but from the way this product is described, its LAN use only, which means that it does not connect to a public network, and it does not seem to connect at some point to the public phone network, which means it canot be used in this case
  • Graham Article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rob_Warwick (789939) <warwickNO@SPAMapplefritter.com> on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:51AM (#18645173) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure if this qualifies, since the article wasn't written until 2005, but Paul Graham mentions in one of this articles that a friend of his wrote some VoIP software in 1994. The article is available online [paulgraham.com].

    In 1994 my friend Koling wanted to talk to his girlfriend in Taiwan, and to save long-distance bills he wrote some software that would convert sound to data packets that could be sent over the Internet. We weren't sure at the time whether this was a proper use of the Internet, which was still then a quasi-government entity. What he was doing is now called VoIP, and it is a huge and rapidly growing business.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mavenguy (126559)
      But did it involve using the PSTN at both ends? Just computer to computer via is acknowledged by the patent as prior art; the central point of novelty is the use of plain telephone sets at both ends communicating with each respective CO; that is regular duplex telephone traffic routed to a local service that converts both ends to/from a connection over IP to a similar remote service that converts back to an appropriate duplex analog telephone traffic to the remote party's analog telephone.
      • I've no idea, past what is quoted above, but I somehow doubt it. Thanks for clearing me up on exactly what they're looking for.
  • Not sure about the actual year, 1990 or 1989 we were offered a new pbx that could divert calls over a permanent data line to all our offices (six at that time). Each call digitized to a 8Kb stream. This were technology from AT&T and Alcatel afaik and used normal analog phones.
    • by hughk (248126)
      I work for a while at a sub of Alcatel in the late eighties in Europe. PBXs were definitely being connected over a LAN (at 10MB/s) and generally sharing traffic with IP and DDCMP. The end-users had either analog telephones or early generation ISDN phones. I know that Nortel were doing similar stuff as were Bosch and Siemens. By the mid nineties, most digital switches chatted using IP.
      • Out of band signaling methods like SS7 is not the same thing as PSTN-VOIP-PSTN.

        • by hughk (248126)
          No the patent said connection between exchanges via the internet *or* any other public network. And by the way, any non-voice band signalling is denoted as out-of-band. The important thing is that data networks have existed for a while and people have been digitising voice and slinging it over networks for a *long* time.
    • by russotto (537200)
      Yes, but if that counted then the PSTN itself would be prior art. It has been using 8Khz 7 bits per sample over a circuit-switched computer network for a very long time.

      Of course, there's no reason that the PSTN itself should not be prior art, but I doubt it would qualify under the ridiculous standards for invalidating patents. To invalidate a patent you have to show that every aspect of the claim was anticipated exactly by the prior art. Unfortunately to be found in violation you need merely come close.
  • Break Stupid Laws (Score:4, Interesting)

    by essence (812715) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:57AM (#18645201) Homepage Journal
    Not sure if this would work, it would probably just end up in people getting sued bigtime, but what if there was a 'class action' of sorts, where a whole heap, and I mean heap, of people/companies used patented ideas, and basically told the patent office and the patent holders to get fucked. It would take co-ordination, but done on a mass scale, the point could be made, and the patent system reformed.

    • 'Not sure if this would work, it would probably just end up in people getting sued bigtime'

      Are you an unemployed lawyer, by any chance?
  • by HRogge (973545)
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISDN [wikipedia.org] It's digital communication over a computer network. Has been an ITU standard since 1980. Case closed, have a nice day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Icarus1919 (802533)
      Yes, if wikipedia says it, it's so. Case closed, indeed.
    • by Andy_R (114137)
      ISDN does not use Internet Protocol, so it's not VOIP. Everyone seems to be missing the fact that this patent is of the type "[existing idea] but on the internet". Prior art to bust it needs to have routed the call over a public network such as internet, not just any digital and/or private line.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by synoniem (512936)
        What is the difference between a connection over a X25 network and "the internet"? Especially in the early days of internet X25 networks were used a lot.
        • by hughk (248126)
          You made a very good point on X.25. The switch manufacturers used it for intercommunication but the important thing was that it was switches, i.e., you stuffed whatever in the packet, be it data or voice and then you put a destination address on the call and it could be routed through a network whether public or private. X.25 was just one low level protocol that was used to setup a point to point connection over a switched network.
      • Everyone seems to be missing the fact that this patent is of the type "[existing idea] but on the internet".

        Their claim seems to be broader than just "Internet Protocol" -- which is part of what EFF objects to: the breadth of the claim.

        From the summary and TFA:

        Specifically, the claims describe a system that connects two parties where the receiving party does not need to have a computer or an Internet connection, but the call is routed in part through the Internet or any other 'public computer network'.

        • by rs79 (71822)
          "So, the Integrated Services Digital Network would fit that description."

          Didja ever have ISDN service? It went like this:

          1) Call the phone company and order an ISDN line.

          That's not a public computer network. It's all going through the phone company.
          • Didja ever have ISDN service? It went like this:

            1) Call the phone company and order an ISDN line.

            That's not a public computer network. It's all going through the phone company.

            Okay. What's the procedure for getting Internet service?

        • No it wouldn't. The internet is a packet-switched network designed for computers. ISDN is a circuit-switched network designed to carry calls. They are very different.
          • The internet is a packet-switched network designed for computers. ISDN is a circuit-switched network designed to carry calls. They are very different.

            ISDN is packet-switched, and is designed to carry multiple types of data, not just calls. All data is carried by asynchronous "cells", as they are called by the guys with bell-shaped-heads. Each cell has a header, with routing information, and a payload of data. Yes, I've seen the Wikipedia article that claims otherwise.

            • Hmmm, I have to agree with the wiki article as I worked on ISDN and SS#7 switches and gateways for five years. Haven't poked around inside the depths of an ISDN stack I can tell you that it is definitely a circuit-switched network in the manner that the wiki describes. Are you perhaps thinking of something else?
            • by Brickwall (985910)
              ISDN is packet-switched, and is designed to carry multiple types of data, not just calls. All data is carried by asynchronous "cells", as they are called by the guys with bell-shaped-heads. Each cell has a header, with routing information, and a payload of data.

              ISDN is synchronous; that's why they need framing bits. I think you are referring to ATM - asynchronous transfer method. I'll agree that almost all telco's use ATM for high speed transport.

      • So if one alters and renames the tcp/ip stack optimizing it for VoIP traffic can avoid this patent and be granted one because the enhanced tcp/ip stack is not tcp/ip anymore just as tcp/ip is different from the isdn network stack. No change to the network infrastructure level, just one more kernel module for *nixes. Could be worse.

        Or one could encapsulate ISDN over tcp/ip.

        Patents are a way to make life miserable.
  • by WetCat (558132) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @08:31AM (#18645357)
    Samoilenko S.I "Seti EVM" (Computer Networks), Moscow, Nauka, 1986

    which describes Adaptive Communication (connecting voice phones using packet switching).
    This book also referencing
    Bellamy J.C. Digital Telephony. John Wiley and Sons, 1982

    May be something can be found in that book too?
  • Two refs here.

    http://ecafe.com/nye96.html [ecafe.com]: Electronic Cafe Telebrations (see the rest of ecafe site). The Electronic Cafe was a pioneer in using ISDN modems with special synching to allow music jams with remotely based musicians, piping video and audio into cafe club spaces.

    Also, Google: electronic cafe isdn history
    This event happened in May, before the September date specified.
    http://www.usc.edu/dept/dance/p9a_earlier_seasons. html [usc.edu]

    1994-95 Revisited
    Zapped Taps(tm)/Alfred Desio Performed in 4
  • Can somebody please delete the American patent system. Having no patent system is better the current horror system.
  • I don't know if sci-fi writings would be prior art.. (it has also been a few years since I've read it)

    Didn't Wintermute ring a number of phones, in a bank of pay phones, as Chase walked past it? Later it spoke with the characters over the phone several times, calls that originated from the 'internet' to a land-line.

    Could the fictional realm of the 'matrix' in Neuromancer be considered akin to the internet? Wikipedia claims: "In Neuromancer Gibson first used the term 'the matrix' in reference to the visualiz
    • In Robert A. Heinlein's book, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", a computer is given several digital voice circuits which are connected to the telephone system.
    • I don't know if sci-fi writings would be prior art.. (it has also been a few years since I've read it)

      To a limited degree. The purpose of prior art is to show that the "CONCEPT" of an idea existed prior to the pantent. If I write about a process or product first, it is hard for someone else to claim the invention of it.

      As an example, Heinlien's Waldo was the first mention of waterbeds (or the concept thereof), and so is prior art for any patent on them.

      Also, prior art does NOT have contain EVERY concept o
  • Haven't phone companies been running phone calls over digital networks for ages? That involves switches that are able to perform the conversion, and run the lines full-duplex. The fact that there are two conversions, analogdigitalanalog, shouldn't matter patent-wise; you're actually still performing both conversions, only one's been moved to a local device.
    • Only solution (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmorris42 (1458) *
      > Haven't phone companies been running phone calls over digital networks for ages?

      Yes they have, and in a sane world that would in itself have ended the discussion at the USPTO. Since the first telco stuff was crude circuit switched equipment a better example would be ATM, which also easily predates the patent. But apparently the USPTO and the courts are still allowing a fresh patent for doing ordinary old things by simply adding "over the Internet" to them. We seriously need a law of one single parag
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Saturday April 07, 2007 @10:05AM (#18645845) Homepage
    I wonder if Simon Hackett's Etherphone qualifies? He was running voice calls over raw Ethernet packets back in 1992. He wrote up a white paper which was distributed at Interop that year.
    • by jesup (8690) *
      Not unless it was connected to a PSTN bridge, which from your description it wasn't.
  • This one has a certain malodorous streak to it. Somehow I can see Verizon as one of the chief investors in North Central Equity which owns Acceris.

    The attacks on VoIP are getting more and more vicious by the day and I'm glad the EFF is stepping into the fray.
  • Infonet Services Corp (now BTInfonet) used to offer a product that did this some 10 years ago. The application resided on your PC but enabled calls to analog telephones pretty much anywhere. Infonet is a global network provider and their networks covered Asia, Europe, the Americas and who knows what all. This enabled them to use their private data networks for a variety of services that were immune from the Internet.
  • by dybdahl (80720) <[kd.lhadbyd] [ta] [ofni]> on Saturday April 07, 2007 @10:46AM (#18646137) Homepage Journal
    I attended the Telecom 95 exhibition in Genève, and I still remember how the news went around, that the finnish telephone backbone would be expanded using IP-capable equipment, to carry both internet traffic and telephone calls. This seemed very logical at that time, for those who knew about TCP/IP. I cannot believe that such huge investments in using the IP protocol for telephone traffic was made, unless the decision makers had seen internet telephony work. This means, that there is prior art somewhere.

    I suggest that you look into the PR messages released at the Telecom 95 exhibition, and then do some research on those that cover telephony over TCP/IP.
  • I'm not sure of this but wouldn't TeamSpeak and Ventrillo count as Prior Art? I know that I was using TeamSpeak 2.0 3 or 4 years ago so it's initial release date must have been a while before that, and both programs transmit voice data over the internet. Sure, they're not phone programs, but they are VoIP aren't they?
  • Xerox PARC in the 1980s. This may have been done at the raw ethernet level, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did work at the IP layer as well.
  • by freebase (83667) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @12:14PM (#18646947)
    The existing Public Switched Telephone network.

    I've not read the patent, but if the claim is really as broad as indicated, it would seem to include the PSTN currently used for 'analog' calls.

    The PSTN, by definition a Public Network, is made up of analog access lines connection analog 'terminals' - your phones - to what's known as a Class 5 switch. Class 5 switches are connected together at what's known as a Tandem, providing connectivity between all the users within an area. Access to the long distance network is via a connection to a Class 4 switch, usually at the tandem, but not always. Class 4 switches are interconnected (internetworked??) with other switches, and eventually a sufficient network is formed that allows you to call anyone with a phone.

    The Switches (Class 5, Class 4, etc) used in this network are very much computers, and have been for quite some time http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5ESS_switch [wikipedia.org].

    The analog to digital conversion used to be done in the CO itself, and sometimes still is, but usually it's done at the Digital Loop Carrier (DLC) closest to the customer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_loop_carrier [wikipedia.org].

    This network even has its own routing and control protocol, SS7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS7 [wikipedia.org].

    Plainly, the only thing really new about VoIP is that it abtracts the physical transport and allows the control plane traffic to be transmitted on the same path as the bearer plane traffic.
    • I believe IS-95, the first publicly used version of CDMA, which was in public use in 1995, carries voice packets over a TCP/IP network from the phone to the mobile switch. From there, the full duplex phone call terminates on any phone on the PSTN.

      The question is whether the Sprint or Verizon IS-95 infrastructure constitutes a 'public network'. I would think so.

      Wikipedia includes a lot of detail about IS-95, as do books on CDMA available on Amazon, so presumably Qualcomm does not mind publication of high l
  • How do those cheap international calling cards work? The ones where you can dial other countries at rates far lower than the phone company will give you? They have existed for years, and I don't know the implementation behind it, but I had always made the assumption that they were a VOIP link between nodes in the two countries with the service provider paying for bandwidth and local rates at each end only. I don't really know enough about it though...
  • Found one! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DigitAl56K (805623) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @01:17PM (#18647569)
    Please google "1994 gsm over ip"

    http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-721578/ip- access-and-RigNet-deliver.html [ecnext.com]

    M2 PRESSWIRE-24 February 2004-ip.access: ip.access and RigNet deliver GSM Abis over IP via satellite; ip.access and RigNet partner for implementation of GSM-over-IP-over-satellite solution; Successful trial paves way for delivery of GSM services to remote locations(C)1994-2004 M2 COMMUNICATIONS LTD

    Also looks interesting:
    http://kbs.cs.tu-berlin.de/~jutta/toast.html [tu-berlin.de]
    http://kbs.cs.tu-berlin.de/~jutta/gsm/toast-igp.ht ml [tu-berlin.de]
  • With all due respect to the EFF, have they forgotten their roots? This stuff was discussed extensively on the old Cypherpunk list back in the early 90's. Heck, it was downright obvious, given that the FBI was mandating wiretapping equipment from the Telco's, and the Internet was in full use by any techically savvy person.

    So just look at the Cypherpunk discussions for starters. You know, from the folks who started the EFF.

    Here are link from a quick Google search for "cypherpunk voice internet":

    March 1 [corante.com]

  • I'd suggest 1980's case law might yield some legal ammunition. Blue Boxing was routinely prosecuted as "computer fraud" (ahem), even when used only for residential phone to residential phone communications. Hence, it would seem, by legal precedent, the phone call was considered as going "over a computer network".
  • Since they don't define "public computer network", I can't see any reason not to consider the PSTN a "public computer network" (T1 and ISDN internet connections are actually blocks of routed phone numbers dedicated to last-mile internet routes, and these were well-established in '95). If that is true, every PSTN phone call is prior art.

    Now, they obviously didn't mean to include POTS as a computer network, but if they're too vague to exclude it by some distinguishing feature, then it's impossible to determin
    • by Tmack (593755)
      If I only had mod points... You state almost exactly what I was going to post myself. The "POTs" network vs the Internet network is like comparing Oranges against Oranges, where the oranges fell from the same tree but one went to the juicer and the other got sliced up for someone's breakfast. The Internet IS the POTs network. They use the same facilities, and are run by the same companies. The only difference is instead of running SS7 over the links they run IP,and the terminating equipment knows to route I
  • What about office voicemail? I also had a personal one I rented for a few months while travelling - this was before mobile phones were affordable. Unless there was a chap listening to the bleeps and changing tapes I assume that when I dialled in it was a computer playing the calls back to me.
  • For some or another reason the lameness filter won't post a list of companies/products I had listed.

    WebPhone, CUSeeMe, Net2Phone, ... all around 1995

    Much dotcom boomers which I even remember using. CUSeeMe for example has been around forever, NeVoT is an example of something that ran on older stuff. I used to do it while messing around with modems. ICQ had it (I don't know when exactly).

    NEVOT (NetworkVoice Terminal) is a media agent that provides packet-voice communicationsacross internetworks. It operates
  • > we need 'prior art'

    How about software available for download? Here's a usenet post from 1994 containing links to available software. This is just the first result I got searching the newsgroups via Google's advanced search function (search terms "phone internet duplex", filtered dates Jan 1 1981 to Dec 31 1994) [usenet post below ===== divider].

    Google's patent search for the same terms and dates gave this result:

    http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4866704 [google.com]

    Abstract
    An asynchronous, high-speed, fiber op
  • The Komodo Phone model 200 and model 300 were out in the mid 90s and did not require a PC. Both had analog ports for a regular phone. The KF200 used a modem dial-up and the KF300 used an ethernet connection for the VOIP side. Cisco bought out KomodoTech at some point and relabelled KF300 as the Cisco ATA816. The KF200 existed briefly as the ATA-182 but was dropped after the first few years.
  • for example the Ericsson AXE switches uses digital communication between the switches and that has been in place since before 1995. (Don't know the exact date, but the AXE was concieved late 70's or early 80's.)

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