Deep Throat Shoots Verizon Patent Out of the Water

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Randy Savicky
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Deep Throat Shoots Verizon Patent Out of the Water

An anonymous source, let's call him/her my "Deep Throat" source emailed me with a couple of interesting links that seem to disprove Verizon's patent claims. One of the most important things in fighting patent claims is demonstrating "prior art" that existed before a subdequent patent was given to someone else. Deep Throat pointed me to a Google Groups (Usenet) post dated way back in September 22, 1995 containing some interesting mentions of VoIP that predate Verizon's patent claims. Deep Throat also pointed to an MIT University link which confirms the accuracy of the Telecom Digest article contained on Google Groups. Not that I doubted Google Groups accuracy for date stamps: http://massis.lcs.mit.edu/archives/back.issues/1995.volume.15/vol15.iss351-400

In this post the author, Jack Decker, says:
I would like to offer up a suggestion for a product, or perhaps I should say a technology. This is an idea that I had that is really an extension of existing products, but I want to go on record as proposing this now so that when someone gets the bright idea in a few months or years, I can point to this as "prior art"


The Sept 1995 article goes on to say:
The idea is this: At some point on the Internet you have a server that connects to the telephone network.  It can detect ringing and seize (answer) the line, or it can pick up the line and initiate outdialing. So far all of this can be done using existing products (modems, for example).  But what I would then propose for this new technology is to take the audio from the phone line and convert it into an audio data stream that can be sent to another location on the Internet.  In a similar manner, this product should be able to accept an audio stream from the Internet and send it out to the phone line.

Audio stream over the internet to a phone line? Sounds like Voice over IP to me.

Further, the article states:
The user could then take some action to "answer the phone" by causing the server to take the phone line offhook and start the audio streams flowing, and the computer user would then be able to hold a conversation with the telephone caller.  Or, if the user wished to make an outgoing call, they could enter a number to be called and then take some action (keypress, mouse click, etc.) that would cause information to be transmitted via the Internet that would cause the server to take the line offhook, dial the requested number using touch tones or dial pulses, and then start the audio data streams flowing, permitting the user to converse with a called party.


Now if this isn't VoIP, I don't know what is! Just as fascinating and in a Nostradamus moment, the author even coins the term "iPhone" before Linksys/Cisco sued Apple over the term iPhone and even before VocalTec's Internet Phone which was nicknamed iPhone. This guy's got prior art for not one but two patents! Though technically iPhone is a trademark not a patent. The section where Jack mentions iPhone is as follows:

In this situation, the telephone line would come into one location that is connected to the Internet, and the user of the line could be almost anywhere else on the Internet.  They'd be able to answer an incoming call, or place an outgoing one, and then talk using an IPhone or similar type interface.

He then tried to protect his ideas when he writes:
The main ideas I want to have on record as "prior art", in case nobody's tried to patent them yet (I hope), are:

1) The idea of taking a unidirectional or bidirectional digital audio stream from the Internet and converting it to analog and sending it to or from a telephone line,

2) The idea of using client software at a user's site on the Internet to remotely control another device on the net that can initiate a call or answer a call (this is prior art anyway, as folks have used remote modems on the internet for over a decade, but this may be the first time this has been proposed in connection with a device that would send real-time audio streams to and from the line).

3) The idea of using authentication with such a system, so that whenever a command is sent that would take the phone line off hook, the command string would include a password or other mechanism that would be verified by the server to insure that the user actually has
authority to remotely control the line.

4) And just to cover all the bases, I'll also suggest that an adapation of this idea would allow someone to call into the Internet using a server, have the call transported some distance over the Internet as digital audio streams, and then sent back out into the public switched telephone system at a distant point. I'm not suggesting this would work well, would be legal, or should be done, but I want to go on record as saying it would be possible with the
right hardware and software.

Note that although I make reference to the Internet at several points above, this technology could work in a similar manner on a private or corporate network.

SupermanNot only does he mention the voice over the Internet but he also mentions that this technology could be used in a private/corporate network, i.e. corporate LAN.

I mentioned in a recent post that only Superman could save Vonage now. So Jack Decker, aka Clark Kent, aka Superman, where are you? Where are you Superman! We need you!

Or are you really covert CTI agent Jack Bauer who has really cool wiz-bang mobile phone technology that is light years ahead of today's mobile phones (See Jack's Perfect Mobile Phone). You share the same first name (Jack) - it all makes perfect sense now. Sorry if I outed you man. Hope I don't end up like Scooter Libby. That man got a raw deal.

Well Vonage, hope this info helps in your litigation.

Update: 4/19/07 - 5:17pm :
Ironically, Andy posted a related blog post about 3Com having discussed VoIP in 1996 that could help Voange in it's legal battles with Verizon. Check it out.


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