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EFF Patent Busting - Prior Art Needed for VOIP 170

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:Vocaltek? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:39AM (#18645131) Homepage Journal
    Yes, the linked article says the EFF are specifically looking for proof that VocalTec or Net2Phone were doing this before 20th September 1995.
  • by NfoCipher ( 161094 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:54AM (#18645191) Homepage
    >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 [] has been and still is "legal".

  • Re:VOIP Prior Art (Score:2, Informative)

    by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @08:39AM (#18645403) Homepage Journal
    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 blithering idiot not to have thought of this"
    Judge: "Well I didn't think of it!"
    EFF: "That's because your are a blith.... erm..."
    Defence: "We move that the case be struck down"
    Judge: "Case dismissed with prejudice!"
  • 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.)
  • 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:


          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
  • Re:Graham Article (Score:2, Informative)

    by mavenguy ( 126559 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @09:34AM (#18645683)
    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.
  • Re:Vocaltek? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Spamalope ( 91802 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @10:38AM (#18646075)
    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 being able to route voice and data at the same time, using small packets, compression, and QOS to keep the voice from breaking up. The setups I remember were analog->voip->analog though, and were used to tie corporate phone systems.

    It sound like this is a patent on existing packet switched voice tech, but specifying which devices the endpoints would be and what the transport protocol would be. Private PC->voip-PC was common, and private analog->voip->analog was common. There were regulatory barriers to doing PC->voip->analog AND tying into the PSTN (public phone system). Privately our 1993 system allow a branch office to press a one button extension on their phone, get a dial tone from the corp. office phone system, and make any call they wanted to. It just wasn't done with TCP/IP because other protocols are much more efficient.
  • 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 [].

    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 [].

    This network even has its own routing and control protocol, SS7 [].

    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.
  • by claykarmel ( 78187 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @01:51PM (#18647853)
    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 level characterizations of it. I also sat through classes in CDMA at UCSD which described IS-95 in glowing detail. So I have good reason to believe none of this is confidential. EIA/TIA/IS-95 and IS-99 and IS-707 are published specifications available from Global Engineering.

    I learned about this TCP/IP network in 1996 while developing 'data devices' to run on the IS-99 (data) overlay of IS-95. In order to present a TCP/IP socket to a handset application (which could terminate anywhere on the web), we had to run an additional TCP/IP stack. That is, our application formed a PPP connection to TCP, wrapped in IP, then PPP again, which was wrapped in the lower stack TCP and the lower stack IP. The lower stack terminated at the mobile switch (enhanced to handle IS-99), with L2TP or PPTP connection to an IP router. The upper stack terminated on a web server. It seemed like an insanely complex link, but it worked surprisingly well because of the highly tuned TCP/IP stack running on the Qualcomm chipset. (I think this connection was later branded as "QuickNetConnect".)

    That is, the lower stack wasn't there for data. It was there, I believe, for Voice (Over IP) services in IS-95.

  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @04:34PM (#18649481) Homepage Journal

    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 enough back then), she asked whether I could hook up a regular phone to it. I had to explain that it was technically possible, but required the cooperation of phone companies on both sides of the internet line, so with the sluggishness big corporations operate with, it wouldn't happen any time soon.
    Mind, she was an old lady who never even figured out how to use half the functions of her remote control or microwave oven, and yet to her it was THE obvious use.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson