VoIP Patents run amok

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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VoIP Patents run amok

We have all been following the various VoIP patent lawsuits. From the Rates Technology vs. Google Talk lawsuit, to Apple vs Cisco iPhone lawsuit, Verizon vs. Vonage patent infringement and many more. Well, Production Ad Absurdam has a couple of interesting recent posts regarding VoIP patents. In his her first article she addresses Web Telephony LLC v. AT&T and goes through some patent claims on VoIP, telephony, and more. In a follow-up post, he she cites my review of Vocaltec's Internet Phone from the 1996/1997 issue of CTI for Management Magazine to argue against various VoIP patents, since my review pre-dates many of these patent claims.

HeShe writes:
VoIP was invented — I use the word advisedly, these fellows were true inventors — in Israel in about 1995. They patented the technology and the patents are assigned to the first VoIP company to offer service: VocalTec, which released the Internet Phone software application in 1995. I’d just like to toss in here that I love the fact that VocalTec is still in business. Like Skype and the Gizmo project, Vocaltec was computer only, no handset. Just microphones and sound cards and speakers. Check out this passage from a review of Internet Phone 4 in the 1996/1997 CTI Buyer’s Guide for Management (page 29 of the .pdf file):
Internet Phone includes voice mail, call holding, call waiting, muting, blocking, caller ID, and directory assistance. Other communication and transmission features of Internet Phone include whiteboarding, file transfer, cross-platform communications, text chat, direct calling and public chat rooms.

Funnily enough, one of the bonuses included in the purchase of Internet Release 4 was Earthlink Network TotalAccess, EarthLink being another defendent in the lawsuit under discussion.

Not only could you have voice conferences with this software, you could also have video conferences with hands free, voice activation. All this and more, at least six years before Web Telephony was granted its patent. Incidentally, the (Vocaltec) review has a screen shot of the animated dialing assistant.

HeShe mentions my article in context of all the recent VoIP patent battles (Apple vs Cisco iPhone lawsuit), and Verizon vs. Vonage patent infringement. Perhaps Vonage could use my 1997 Vocaltec article in its current litgation battle with Verizon? Hmmmm. Could a subpoena be in mail for me to testify? ;)

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