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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 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.
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> 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 gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @10:05AM (#18645849)
    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
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2007 @11:51AM (#18646691)
    The limitation of early internet telephony was never technical, it was simply that no one had figured out the business model and managed to acquire the funding to set up the business. Once the funding was secured, they simply had to pay any competent network software developer to get the thing done, no genius required.
  • Only solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <`gro.uaeb' `ta' `sirromj'> on Saturday April 07, 2007 @12:27PM (#18647075)
    > 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 paragraph:

    "No patent may be issued or upheld if the only thing unique about it is that it extending an existing practice to the Internet. This is one of the designed purposes for the Internet; using something for it's designed purpose is NOT original or difficult for one skilled in the art so knock it off you idiots. This law is intended both as an order to the USPTO and binding guidance for the Judicary."

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982