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Vonage May Have Way Around Patent Disputes 87

nevillethedevil writes "Bloomberg is reporting that Vonage may have found a way around the current patent issues they have been facing with Verizon and others. They are applying technological solutions to a legal problem, changing the way that Vonage's communications software operates at a basic level to ensure that they no longer infringe on patent claims. 'Vonage's new technology can be installed through software downloads and shouldn't be costly to deploy, Citron said. The company will continue to appeal the court decision that requires it to pay Verizon damages for infringing patents on technology that translates Internet-based calls to standard lines.'"
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Vonage May Have Way Around Patent Disputes

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  • The could just tape a speaker to a phone, unless at&t has a patent on that too.
  • With their vast experience of finding copywrite-infringing code - they found the offending 3 lines of codes in a few hours. // Copywrite 1997 Bell Atlantic
    if (switch = "5eSS") {
    phone_home("Bell Atlantic Law Dept", hostname);
    } //
  • Two Useful Links (Score:5, Informative)

    by asphaltjesus ( 978804 ) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @05:21PM (#19074859)
    Of course there's a way around it! It's software after all.

    I worked in a company that did software in the banking/finance world and the lawyer literally spent all her time working with engineering to figure ways around patents or otherwise write code that stuck to as many standards as legally possible.

    Apparently this presented great complexity from a coding perspective.

    Two informative links for those that want a bit of substantive background on the topic.
    http://ipurbia.com/2007/03/verizon-patent-analysis .html [ipurbia.com]

    http://herot.typepad.com/cherot/2007/04/verizon_se rvice.html [typepad.com]

    That this kind of litigation has to happen at all is another indicator of how bad the business climate is in the U.S.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arivanov ( 12034 )
      I would read the background in the links with a grain of salt. The author of the top one missed the well known industry fact of "Noone in his sane mind sues Level3 on VOIP IP". I bet a lot of people had the itch, but AFAIK noone ever did.

      The reason is that Level3 once upon a time bought one of the first softswitch developers. AFAIK it ever tried to use it in production, but it can still use it as a great defensive legal weapon.

      If Verizon tries to sue Level3 it will be presented with code which does what is
      • Missing The Point (Score:3, Interesting)

        If Verizon tries to sue Level3 it will be presented with code which does what is described in some of their patents and is dated at least several years prior to that.

        I wish Verizon would sue Level3, but they won't. They'll sue every ISP/VOIP provider that doesn't pay the Verizon Patent Tax. That costs them a couple of lawyers salaries for a huge return.
      • If Verizon tries to sue Level3 it will be presented with code which does what is described in some of their patents and is dated at least several years prior to that.

        So what? If it's not been disclosed, it doesn't matter.
        • by arivanov ( 12034 )
          Not quite so. There was a commercial product implementing the function. So as a matter of fact the disclosure has occurred.
          • Not quite. Making a commercial product does put you at risk of losing patentability, but it may not be sufficient to establish prior art. It's kind of a worst-of-both-worlds situation. So, either publish or patent.
  • It's too bad the new approach violates patents from Nokia, Microsoft, and Apple...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lothar97 ( 768215 ) *
      I have to agree with this one, it's likely that whatever they're doing may infringe someone else's patent. Then again, perhaps Vonage has learned its lesson and have properly licensed the new technology that is being implemented.

      A final point, Vonage better beware of the doctrine of equivalents [wikipedia.org]. The doctrine of equivalents holds a party liable for patent infringement even if the infringing device/process does not fall within the literal scope of the patent's claims, but accomplishes the equivalent to th
      • You are a Patent Lawyer, yes?

        I thought so...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mr2001 ( 90979 )
        Is that doctrine actually good for anything besides stifling innovation? I mean, shouldn't we be encouraging people to come up with new methods that produce the same result in a way that isn't already patented?
  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @05:30PM (#19074997) Homepage
    This just means that 1) Vonage's new implementation could unknowingly fall under somebody else's patent, and they'd have to play the whole game over again, and 2) Vonage will patent their new implementation (to try to avoid this mess again, since that will at least make it so that only pre-May-2007 patents can sink Vonage), but that will just cause more headaches for the next organization who thinks that implementing VoIP/POTS integration can be done in an obvious / non-patentable way.
  • by moochfish ( 822730 ) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @05:37PM (#19075069)
    How come you read about companies violating patents one day and then finding "work arounds" the next? Seriously, if a patented technology is a crucial component in an application, how is it that the expected reaction is to bypasses it and yet keep the application functioning *exactly* like it was before.

    If that doesn't show that software patents are bogus, I don't know what will.
    • by reebmmm ( 939463 )
      The patent system incentivizes would-be infringers to "invent around." Indeed, it's arguably one of the goals of the patent system. That is, one of the benefits of having patents is that it forces inventors to invent some more. This has lots of benefits:
      * it requires others to think about the problem more
      * it often produces newer, better, more efficient solutions
      * it opens up opportunities in fields where it would have been cost prohibitive to even explore (but for the "rent" imposed by a patent)

      The same
      • Where is your proof for your second claim? It MAY produce a better, more efficient solution, but a "work around" is just that, working around a roadblock. I would really doubt that it often creates better solutions. And your third claim is just bullshit.
        • by reebmmm ( 939463 )
          True. I said it often has that result. You don't need to look to software to see companies inventing around. It's happening in almost every competing product and design. However, that doesn't mean that there IS another a way.

          Also, I think that the point is not that you implement "work arounds" but rather that you "invent around" a patent. However, as with everything, it's an economic decision. In the case where there is NOT a viable work around, enter license agreements or see the third point.

          As to my third
      • by rhizome ( 115711 )
        I'm sorry, I stopped reading at "incentivizes."

        • it incentivizes "inventing around" existing patents because if your idea is new YOU can patent it! Often the ideas "invented around" are good for the company and take it in new directions, with new experience. In the business environement the goal is to then turn marketing around to suit your invention.

          I the last company I worked at make parts for people. We had one large customer stupid enough to fire all their chief engineers and just milk the product. Those engineers cashed in there options and ope

          • it incentivizes "inventing around" existing patents

            I think his point was that he'd have preferred that the OP phrase it differently. Perhaps "Gives incentive to..." rather than the tortured "incentivizes."

      • The patent system incentivizes would-be infringers to "invent around." Indeed, it's arguably one of the goals of the patent system. That is, one of the benefits of having patents is that it forces inventors to invent some more.

        Sadly in the software world that equals more bloat and slower code. To illustrate this point I have produced the following flawless step-by-step plan:

        1. Company X patents a part of their software
        2. Company Y is making a competing product and is forced to "innovate" around the pate

        • Would it not be possible for Company Z to 'innovate' around the patent roadblocks of Company X resulting in different innovations than Company Y came up with? In this case the bloating is somewhat limited (since at some point you run out of "innovations").
    • OR if you need to work harder(devise ridiculous scheme) to not use the OBVIOUS solution, the patent is heading on a path of self-invalidation, isn't it?
      • by reebmmm ( 939463 )
        Well, your logic is somewhat circular. If it is legally determined "obvious" then, yes, it'll be invalid. But the fact that a patent covers the easy way to do something doesn't make it legally "obvious" or "invalid." I'd also argue that it's not at all clear which way the fact that there is not another easy way cuts. It could very well mean that the putative-inventor was actually a genius and found the only reasonable way. That's something that should enjoy a benefit.

        Finally, as with any other sort of tre
    • hmmm you have hit upon a fascinating loophole. I wonder if this would apply to more traditional patents as well? Could I get your expert opinion on possibly reinventing an apparatus like a wheel and yet it would be in an octagonal formulation rather than a circumferal... it would in fact serve the same purpose and in some specific scenarios (such as in a roadway with an aligned 'teeth' configuration) it may in fact be more efficient than said 'wheel'.

      Hmmm it occurs to me that there may be more than one way
      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        The work around to the wheel is simple. You just need a shape that has ~100k flat sides. No round services at all, yet it work just as well provided the size isn't too big. If it is, you must implement the technology of using more than 100k sides.
    • by telso ( 924323 )
      Actually, your argument shows how patents on methods aren't bogus. A patent that protects a method does just that: it protects *one way* of doing something. If it's "obvious", then it shouldn't be patentable. But if it isn't, then there's the innovation you wanted the patent system to produce. Clearly the problem is the definition of obvious, but if something really isn't obvious then we should reward people for spending time producing something truly not obvious. If there's another way to implement th
    • by syukton ( 256348 )
      If somebody were to patent a process that involves converting thing A into thing J, that patent could be circumvented by a process that converts thing A into thing B, which then converts it into thing C, and so on into J. Each step would have to be distinct enough to bear little resemblance to the initial A-to-J conversion, but the end result would be the same. The application won't function "exactly" like it did before, it might be slower (take an extra fraction of a second to connect a call) or take up mo
  • Go Vonage! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Thursday May 10, 2007 @06:14PM (#19075645)
    Go Vonage. I doubt anyone believes for a moment that Verizon is doing anything with these patents to make VoIP calls, cheaper, better, or easier to use. Most likely just the opposite -- which is completely anti-consumer!
    • Yeah, but the point of patents isn't to benefit consumers, it's to benefit the company that invented the technology.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by liam193 ( 571414 ) *
        Not exactly. Actually, in the USA it is for neither of those reasons.

        To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

        The key portion here is the reason for which Congress is allowed to secure the rights to authors and inventors. The purpose is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. I think the problem that many who post on here have with patent and copyright laws in

      • I thought their only purpose was to encourage invention for the benefit of the consumer...

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