Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Patents United Kingdom

British Telecom Claims Patents on VOIP Session Initiation Protocol 116

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the assuredly-not-bogus dept.
An anonymous reader writes with bad news for operators of SIP gateways. From the article: "VoIP-to-PSTN termination providers and SIP vendors will be watching their inboxes for a lawyer's letter from BT, which has kicked off a licensing program levying a fee on the industry, based on a list of 99 patents .. The British incumbent is offering to allow third parties to use the Session Initiation Protocol under a license agreement... BT is requesting either $US50,000 or a combination of 0.3 percent of future revenue from affected products, plus 0.3 percent of the last six months' sales for products as 'past damages.' It's kindly offering a discount for customers that pay up within six weeks of receiving a BT letter of demand, and there's a premium to $US60,000 and 0.36 percent of revenue for those who hold out."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

British Telecom Claims Patents on VOIP Session Initiation Protocol

Comments Filter:
  • Brits (Score:2, Funny)

    by clickson (2887959)
    Geth them!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They would have to enforce this in the US as in the UK I believe you cannot yet patent software. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patents_under_United_Kingdom_patent_law

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Why? The US Congress will gladly roll over and support them. Every single man and woman in the US Congress, as well as the White House completely supports this kind of BS.

      If they did not, they would pass a bill that invalidates all software patents and make software not patentable.

  • who cares (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    BT is just another failed Tory privatisation, retarding and overcharging for UK telecoms ever since. Its only redeeming feature is that it is set up by regulatory-captured Ofcom to be the less awful alternative to Murdoch and Branson's brands.

    Ah, the true nature of competition where there is natural monopoly.

    • Re:who cares (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timftbf (48204) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @09:51AM (#43600517)

      Actually, much of the BT set-up makes a whole lot of sense.

      There *is* a natural monopoly in putting copper (or glass) in the ground or on poles, and the part of BT that does this is a distinct entity.

      The parts of BT that sell everything from residential phone lines to corporate GigE circuits have to buy from the infrastructure part of BT on *exactly* the same terms as any other telecoms service provider. It's about as much of a level playing field as you're ever going to get...

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        is a distinct entity.

        This makes me laugh. Openreach is part of BT and operates in the interests of BT shareholders - where these shares also convey ownership of the retail arm. No amount of handwaving by Ofcom, which essentially behaves as BT pleases, is going to enable this system to be any fairer.

        Also, "competing bill-printing services" - as with the privatisation of electricity and gas - is a joke. At least the privatisation of water companies was honest, in that there are no alternatives, because, well, there is still only

        • The last mile to the house is a natural monopoly. Once you get to some sort of switching station then you could have real competition with physical hardware from different competing ISPs colocated in the same offices and using separate upstream bandwidth. That's more than just "competing bill-printing services".

          I have no idea if this is what they do in the UK, but it's *possible*.

          • by gbjbaanb (229885)

            We have this in that the cabinets and cables are owned by the infrastructure company and leased out to whoever wants it. Competing ISPs can also install their kit in the exchanges and use the cables to the homes. Competing ISPs can also install their own cables (eg fibre) to the homes as well (but this tends to be very expensive).

            The UK telecom situation is rather good, prices are cheap enough and service good enough to make our American cousins cry... just like our mobile ISPs.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          As a past employee it's interesting to see how much red tape between branches of the company there is. The regulation means that BT isn't allowed an advantage compared to their competitors. That means you're frequently banned knowledge/access that would be extremely useful to your job, because an external entity wouldn't have that knowledge. It gets even more ridiculous if you're working for two different departments at the same time, because often it means for two related projects you have to develop one p

          • by Cederic (9623)

            The regulation means that BT isn't allowed an advantage compared to their competitors.

            The regulations had to be changed because BT was exploiting their monopoly position to fuck over their competitors.

            Disclaimer: I may have once worked for a Telco

    • Re:who cares (Score:4, Insightful)

      by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @10:21AM (#43600797) Journal

      BT is just another failed Tory privatisation,

      It's a success compared to what the old public BT used to be like. Most privatisations have been disasterous, this one was already a disaster, so it's not been too bad.

    • by Cederic (9623)

      the less awful alternative

      The problem is that the two you named actually realise that they have customers and attempt to cater to them. Sure, customer service from one is pitiful and the politics of the other reprehensible, but BT act as though you should feel privileged to use their network and do their utmost to fuck over companies that actually try and help their customers.

      I hate BT.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @09:42AM (#43600391)

    All ITSPs then should ditch SIP for PSTN trunking and move to support IAX2. A much simpler protocol and it goes through NAT like a knife through butter.

    • by Albanach (527650) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @09:49AM (#43600467) Homepage

      All ITSPs then should ditch SIP for PSTN trunking and move to support IAX2.

      That would be to presume none of these patents implicate IAX2. After all, they're not claiming a patent on SIP, they're claiming patents on what SIP does. Providers would want to be sure IAX2 is not going to be found to be infringing before making the effort to migrate.

      What would be better would be concerted work on having as many of these patents invalidated as possible. Hopefully the remaining ones can then be worked around.

      • by Splab (574204)

        Try pointing out that the UK is part of EU and so far, software patents aren't valid?

        • by Cassini2 (956052) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @10:22AM (#43600803)

          Somehow, i suspect British Telecom was smart enough to get the US version of this patent, and software patents are fair game in the US.

          • Somehow, i suspect British Telecom was smart enough to get the US version of this patent, and software patents are fair game in the US.

            Once again (from an embarrassed American), apologies for that...

            • by odigity (266563)

              Stop that!

              You didn't personally create the patent system, and it doesn't even seem like you agree with it, so why apologize for it?

              Bugs the crap out of me when people say "we" with regards to/ apologize on behalf of the actions taken by the government that claims ownership of you.

              You are an individual. They are a network of thugs. Stop identifying with them, and stop collectivizing all individuals who live within these imaginary lines called the U S of A.

              • by Cederic (9623)

                Yeah, but he's part of the society that elected the sociopaths that passed the stupid laws. He also hasn't used his second amendment rights to remove the 'network of thugs' (to use your term).

                In other words, he's culpable. An apology is the least he can offer.

              • Once again (from an embarrassed American), apologies for that...

                Stop that!

                You didn't personally create the patent system, and it doesn't even seem like you agree with it, so why apologize for it?

                Be still my child. "JeezUS" is here. The people need a sacrificial lamb. Let we who have not been touched by the sins of Intellectual Property suffer for the Original sins of those who have. In this way we may stand as a lasting reminder that those great founding fathers who came before us were flawed in that they trusted the majority of voters to not be apathetic idiots, and at least a portion of congress to not be corrupt.

                May our sacrifice of honor and faith in the systems that rule us be as a baco

              • Hell, I've done everything that I can do to help. I've ran for office (won the primary but lost the general for US House), I vote every election and try to be as active as possible. The truth of the matter is that the asshats in office right now represent us, and when they pull these moves and still get reelected it shows that we as a society are giving them our tacit approval.
        • by digitig (1056110)
          And I'll expect that BT will point out that these aren't software patents.
          • by Splab (574204)

            Really? The SIP servers I'm running are purely done in software; but after posting that I realized that they are targeting american companies, not European, so guess it's a non issue (for most people).

            • by digitig (1056110)
              The implementation might be in software, but the article says that the patents relate to the protocol, not the implementation of the protocol.
      • they're not claiming a patent on SIP, they're claiming patents on what SIP does

        And since SIP was developed from c. 1994-1999, they're just about to bump up against the 20 year window.

        A few petty lawyers here have the power to disrupt a global industry. I'm continually astonished that there's anybody who can't see that the system is fundamentally flawed.

      • They're not even patents necessarily describing what SIP does, they're really about providing a telephone service. One is a patent on rerouting calls between telephone exchanges in response to circuit failures defined in extremely old PSTN jargon ("tandem" exchanges are specifically mentioned). In the case of SIP, this is mostly going to be handled at the IP layer and not in the manner described, as far as I can tell. Another is a method for detecting whether conflicting features (eg call waiting and call f

    • by tomwish (2499164)

      All ITSPs then should ditch SIP for PSTN trunking and move to support IAX2. A much simpler protocol and it goes through NAT like a knife through butter.

      The issue with IAX2 is that currently you are limited to Asterisk and its forks. I currently have Sonus and sansay products in my network and IAX2 is not an option. I agree that IAX2 is great for nat but have not seen any studies on high volume/high CPS. I peak during the day at 6k cps and 150k channels. You would have to get the big vendors to buy in and they never agree on anything.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The "Patent Extortion Letter Protocol"?

    Protocols are APIs.

    http://www.zdnet.com/oracle-vs-google-one-claim-that-should-not-stand-3040155046/

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      The "Patent Extortion Letter Protocol"?

      Unfortunately you don't have to look far to find prior art

  • by raju1kabir (251972) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @09:50AM (#43600489) Homepage

    There needs to be some sort of "horse has left the barn" exemption to patent enforceability. If a patent holder sits quietly and watches while an industry develops around something they believe to be infringing, it's not reasonable to allow them to wait until billions of dollars are at stake and then suddenly show up with a demand for payment.

    That's not at all in the spirit of patent law. The purpose was to allow the patent holder the ability to exploit their own invention, not to allow them to sit on their asses doing nothing and then exploit everyone else's work.

    • That's not at all in the spirit of patent law. The purpose was

      "The purpose was" is now irrelevant. The patent law now serves the interests of those who own the government just as they wish it to be.

      c.f. "You said they'd be left at the city under my supervision! "

      • by PSVMOrnot (885854)

        c.f. "You said they'd be left at the city under my supervision! "

        "Here is a unicycle. You will ride it wherever you go." [youtube.com]

      • "The purpose was" is now irrelevant. The patent law now serves the interests of those who own the government just as they wish it to be.

        Stating the purpose is hugely relevant in terms of educating many who do not know. You're correct to state that that patent law is currently abused in ways directly contrary to the motivations of its creators. You're very incorrect to imply that educating people about this travesty is meaningless.

        • You're very incorrect to imply that educating people about this travesty is meaningless.

          History is always valuable. But if anybody thinks the current government(s) is/are going back to the way it was, then they haven't been paying attention to history.

    • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @10:13AM (#43600719)

      This is what is also known as a "submarine patent"

      It lurks under the water while adoption builds.
      Later on, the "submarine patent" surfaces and sues everyone.

      • Later on, the "submarine patent" surfaces and sues everyone.

        Have they sued anyone? Or are they just asking people to license a patent that they legally own?

        A company has an obligation to look at the technology they use in their products and do a patent search to see if they are infringing on existing technology owned by someone else.

        Simply because BT had not until now chosen to require or ask for licensing doesn't give other people a free ride for ever. The onus is on YOU to do due diligence with your products that you market for profit, YOU bare the responsibility

      • This is what is also known as a "submarine patent"

        It lurks under the water while adoption builds. Later on, the "submarine patent" surfaces and sues everyone.

        As usual, Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] states it well:

        A submarine patent is a patent whose issuance and publication are intentionally delayed by the applicant for a long time, such as several years.[1][2][3] This strategy requires a patent system where, first, patent applications are not published, and, second, patent term is measured from grant date, not from priority/filing date. In the United States, patent applications filed before November 2000 were not published and remained secret until they were granted. Analogous to

        • Unless these are patents that had been filed 15 years ago and were finally granted just now, they are not submarine patents.

          Someone has already pointed out that the patents in question were issued from 1994-1999.

          So, they weren't published, and they seem to meet the other requirements for "submarine patents".

          • Someone has already pointed out that the patents in question were issued from 1994-1999.

            So, they weren't published, and they seem to meet the other requirements for "submarine patents".

            "Issued" and "published" are sometimes used synonymously for patents, though there's some ambiguity because patent applications are usually made public before the patent is granted. If these patents were issued between 1994 and 1999, then they must have been made public during that same span (maybe slightly earlier if you're talking about making public the applications for patents issued at the 1994 end). A patent can't be made public any later than it's issued. That's the point of patents, to publicly disc

    • There needs to be some sort of "horse has left the barn" exemption to patent enforceability. If a patent holder sits quietly and watches while an industry develops around something they believe to be infringing, it's not reasonable to allow them to wait until billions of dollars are at stake and then suddenly show up with a demand for payment.

      That's not at all in the spirit of patent law. The purpose was to allow the patent holder the ability to exploit their own invention, not to allow them to sit on their asses doing nothing and then exploit everyone else's work.

      Yeah... some sort of "you intentionally waited too long to enforce your rights, and as a result, the infringers are in an unreasonably worse position now than they would've been had you acted at little faster" rule. Or like you say, the "horse has left the barn, so why bother latching it up". We could even call it the laches [wikipedia.org] rule.

      • by Bob9113 (14996)

        We could even call it the laches [wikipedia.org] rule.

        Nice! I've heard of laches before but didn't know what it meant. I will leave this page more knowledgeable than when I arrived. Thanks!

      • I'll do you one better. Just shorten patent duration to 5 years. Oh you waited too long, your submarine sank... Oh, that's not long enough? Well, it is for the majority so get to innovating faster and deal with it.
        • I'll do you one better. Just shorten patent duration to 5 years. Oh you waited too long, your submarine sank... Oh, that's not long enough? Well, it is for the majority so get to innovating faster and deal with it.

          That's a bit naive. Between a provisional application, and a two and a half year backlog at the USPTO, and then 1.5 years of prosecution (two rounds of back and forth, plus the delay to issue the patent) and you could have a patent that issues on its expiration date. And if you're in pharma, you still haven't cleared FDA-required animal testing, much less humans, and you're far from even selling a single unit of product.

    • by digitig (1056110) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @10:27AM (#43600859)
      This is about British Telecom. They've probably only just heard of VOIP.
      • by jonbryce (703250)

        They do actually offer their own VOIP service, which charges the same rates for calls as their POTS service.

      • This is about British Telecom. They've probably only just heard of VOIP.

        They heard about it years ago, but decided it was probably just a fad that would go away... like electricity.

    • Do you have any factual basis for thinking that in this case BT did in fact sit and wait, as opposed to attempting to negotiate in private before resorting to the courts?

      • I do not have any concrete proof of the nonexistence of such an attempt. Like all attempts to prove a negative, I must rely in large part on the lack of evidence that an attempt has occurred. I've been involved with VoIP for over 10 years and never heard of such a thing. Nor does the article mention it. Nor do any of the other discussions of the topic.
    • by HiThere (15173)

      In the US it exists, and is called "latches" or something like that. But it requires lots of work from a skilled lawyer to use.

  • I got... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @09:50AM (#43600491)
    ...99 patents, but SIP ain't one.
  • All this bickering about session initialization is a non-starter. C'mon, I had to retrieve my password for this terrible joke.
  • Hyperlink Patent (Score:5, Informative)

    by Saint Gerbil (1155665) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @10:04AM (#43600633)

    Reminds me of the hidden page patent.
    I'm sure this will go the same way.

    http://www.zdnet.com/bt-loses-hyperlink-patent-case-3002121257/ [zdnet.com]

  • One must wonder if BT is willing to force the ISPs that already have a SIP trunk with them, to sign this deal. Or maybe that's where they're aiming at.. Either way good luck with this stupidness
    • by omnichad (1198475)

      As others have posted, software patents aren't valid in the UK, so they're likely suing based on a US patent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @10:20AM (#43600779)

    I work for a VoIP provider, based in a UK and have several direct SIP links to BT - so they know we use it! The irony is they can't charge us these license fees because currently the law in the UK prevents them.

  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @10:48AM (#43601025)

    Sir,

    We select the 0.3 percent of revenue payment option. We have enclosed a check for $0.00 to cover all past and future expected revenue.

    Signed, The FreeTards

    • Sir,

      We select the 0.3 percent of revenue payment option. We have enclosed a check for $0.00 to cover all past and future expected revenue.

      Signed, The FreeTards

      I can only hope you sent it postage due.

    • by Shimbo (100005)

      Dear FreeTards,

      You missed the 'greater of' part. That will be $50 000 you owe us.

      BT.

      • Dear BT,

        It seems an eternity since our last handshake; Indeed I don't believe we've ever so
        just let me say its a [division by zero error] to make your acquaintance.

        You knew we could never say no to you -- You, our one true Telecom of the Brits.

        However, being dwellers of basements we've not much monetary compensation to meet your demands.
        It seems the courts are in your favorable pockets, so we've had to file for bankruptcy.
        Subsequently we are bound to liquidate our worldly possessions and thus trans

  • ... and develop an all new protocol. At this point, it won't even need PSTN capability since we are moving away from that.

  • Prior Art: MMUSIC (Score:5, Informative)

    by anwaya (574190) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:03PM (#43601759)
    The IETF MMUSIC (Multiparty Multimedia Session Control) Working Group started working on Session Protocols [ietf.org] in 1993.

    Initial Internet drafts for a Session Invitation Protocol and a Simple Conference Invitation Protocol were prepared in 1996, and merged to a single first draft of SIP by December 1996 (slide 10 [columbia.edu]), with further drafts (2-12) leading up to the publication of RFC 2543 in March of 1999 (slides 11-13, ibid.).

    I don't see anything that says BT had a hand in anything to do with SIP up to 1996. More than half the patents BT claims (Exhibit C [btplc.com]) were filed after RFC 2543 was published.

    I hope this information is a useful starting point for some SIP vendor.
    • Re:Prior Art: MMUSIC (Score:5, Informative)

      by scubamage (727538) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @01:55PM (#43603021)
      I work on Voice R&D/Product Engineering for a major MSO (not going to list the name here), and we had to go through discovery for these lawsuits already. The most annoying thing is we actually have several people from the RFC working group working here, so it is... salty to say the least. But I will say, they're going after companies on the fortune 500 so you can bet that the whole history will be poured over by legions of lawyers. If the little SIP vendors are smart and able, they'll try their very best to delay until some of the big lawsuits are finished.
  • This whole thing is messed up. I work in voice for a major MSO, and we had to go through a bunch of fact finding and discovery for the BT lawsuit. The thing that is really annoying is that SIP, to my knowledge, is not the result of BT's work. It's the result of the IETF RFC process. That'd be like me jumping up and saying I have the patent on TCP/IP.
  • WTF: SIP is an IETF standard, so these people should not be holding any patents, otherwise it is another useless standard. It would be like if http protocol was patented and they required you to pay to implement it.
    • WTF: SIP is an IETF standard, so these people should not be holding any patents, otherwise it is another useless standard. It would be like if http protocol was patented and they required you to pay to implement it.

      Seems the patents aren't on the SIP as such, but rather on SIP trunking. Some other posters have been touching on this, but it is not stated clearly in the summary or in any posts form what I could see.

  • by pjr.cc (760528)

    I say yay because i really dont like sip, i think its a horrible protocol and anything that would end its life is fantastic (even if it is a patent troll). Though its hard to see if BT are claiming ownership of any tech that does voip to pstn or just SIP.

    With any luck, someone will develop a useful protocol to replace it, though my hopes arent high.

Felson's Law: To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

Working...