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Preliminary Finding Invalidates VoIP Patent 77

netbuzz writes "After a review, the US Patent Office has issued a preliminary finding that the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls 'an important first step in busting a patent that stifles innovation and the use of VoIP as a free speech tool.' (Here is the EFF's press release.) C2 Communications has used the patent to extract one-time payments from the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest."
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Preliminary Finding Invalidates VoIP Patent

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  • Support the EFF (Score:5, Informative)

    by cesman ( 74566 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @02:31PM (#33678412) Homepage

    This is a fine example of why one should support the EFF.

  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @02:31PM (#33678420)

    "Why would we offer you a refund? We offered in exchange for your payment a promise that we wouldn't sue under this patent, and we aren't going to!"

  • For More Information (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grond ( 15515 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @02:39PM (#33678502) Homepage

    What's being announced here is a non-final office action in an ex parte reexamination. Basically, the EFF submitted some prior art that presented a 'substantial new question' of patentability and asked the Patent Office to review it. From there, the Patent Office and the patent owner hash things out; the prior art submitter's role is finished. (Prior art submitters can take a more hands-on role via inter partes reexamination, but that's more expensive and time consuming than ex parte reexam).

    Reexamination cases are a little tricky to look up because you have to find the control number for the case. The control number in this case is 90/009637, which you can plug into Public PAIR []. Here is the non-final office action [] that is the subject of the post, since you can't link directly to documents in PAIR.

    The patent owner will have an opportunity to respond to this non-final office action. If the examiner is satisfied, then that's that. More likely the examiner will not accept the arguments or will have discovered new ones. Typically there are one or two non-final actions and then a final action. After that, the patent owner can still appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. From the time of appeal to a decision is, at median, a couple of years. From there the patent owner could still appeal to the Federal Circuit.

    So, while this is a preliminary finding, it is very far from definitive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2010 @02:40PM (#33678524)

    A little broad, but then again it was filed in 1995

    You've got to be kidding me.

    If you believe that these concepts were particularly (or even remotely) innovative in 1995, you have either a very distorted view of history or very little understanding of the technology involved.

    Helpful hint: the mere use of an acronym does not make your straightforward application of ancient concepts "new" nor "non-obvious."

  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @03:44PM (#33679306)

    What you (and, apparently, the moderators) don't seem to recognize is, it is not a perfectly acceptable argument. (I was aiming for "funny", not "insightful", with that particular post. I kind of worry how far we've slid if that isn't obvious.)

    What it is, is a satire of the sort of corporate weasle-speak that I would expect in that situation. Calling that argument "acceptable" sets up a form of legalized racketeering.

    Patent licenses shouldn't be treated as protection money / promise not to sue. They should be treated as the purchasing of a right, which it turns out the seller had no authority to sell.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2010 @08:02PM (#33682396)

    Anon Examiner here:

    To further what you are saying the patent owner can also narrow the claims by adding additional limitations. Also while a new case will possibly have 2 non-finals and then a final, in Reexams it is very frowned upon to have more than one non-final action. Also reexams are done by a select group of examiners who have much more experience and are less likely to make a mistake.

    On appeal the appellant can file a brief. The examiner then files an examiner answer to the brief. If the examiner brought up new arguments the appellant may file a reply brief. The appellant may also request a 15 minute oral hearing in front of the board (3 judges). The examiner may but never does orally respond for 10 minutes.

    If they don't like the boards decision (agree with examiner) they can file a request for reconsideration. If this fails they can appeal to a CAFC panel, then to the whole CAFAC court sitting en banc, and finally appeal to the Supreme court would likely not take the case.

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings