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VoIP patent reaffirmed

03/25/07 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032300986.html?nav=rss_business

Like to use Skype to talk to people who use POTS (the plain ol' telephone system) rather than a computer? Maybe Vonage's equivalent? Be prepared to say bye-bye to it. In the linked-to article, Vonage has been found guilty of infringing on three VoIP patents belonging to Verizon. Two of them aren't mentioned further, but the third is to do with how a gateway between traditional phone systems and VoIP systems are constructed.

While I've not read the patent or the judgement, the following excerpt makes me think they're both rather broad and are likely to affect more than just Vonage's implementation:

Arbogast predicted that Vonage would find it difficult to design an alternative way of hooking its network to the public telephone system because of the way the judge had interpreted Verizon's patent, leaving the Internet challenger little legal room for maneuver. Vonage had unsuccessfully argued that the patent covered only a small portion of how that connection can be made.

Ah, patents. Glorious. Of course, they exist for protecting ideas, making it possible to have a limited time monopoly for profit-taking. Well, sort of:

The impact of the court's decision on other providers of Internet phone services, known as voice-over-Internet protocol, or VoIP, remains unclear, analysts said. This could depend on whether Verizon wants to shut down Vonage or sell its licenses for the technology.

Frankly, if you can have a patent issued, there should also be an obligation to license it out at an acceptable cost. Being able to turn around and say "Oh, we're going to shut down all activity in this area for 20 years" strikes me as a remarkably restrictive tool, especially in the hands of a company that's under threat financially by the technology. Free market? In your dreams.

(Via The Agonist)


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