Home & Office

Key VoIP patent to be re-examined

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has successfully applied for the so-called '373 patent to be reviewed by the US Patent and Trademark Office
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

A longstanding patent on VoIP technology is to be re-examined by the US Patent and Trademark Office following a complaint by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to a statement released by the EFF on Friday, the VoIP patent — which covers systems where the internet is used to route and maintain voice calls made between analogue phones — should not have been granted because "both a prior patent and published reference materials described the underlying technology" long before the applicant, Acceris, made its claim in 1995.

The patent is one of several being targeted by the EFF in its Patent Busting Project, a scheme where the not-for-profit organisation tries to prove that certain patents should not have been awarded.

"Our American patent system is meant to encourage invention and innovation," EFF legal director Cindy Cohn said in the statement. "Undeserved patents instead serve to quash competition and hurt business and consumers."

 The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) decides whether to grant a request for re-examination depending on whether there is "a substantial new question of patentability", according to the office's guidelines. After re-examining the patent, USPTO could make corrections to it or reject all its claims, nullifying the whole patent.

US patent number 6,243,373, known in the industry as the '373 patent, was awarded to Acceris, now called C2 Global Technologies, in 2001. It describes the "method and apparatus for implementing a computer network/internet telephone system". According to C2's website, local versions of the patent have been awarded in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong and the US.

The company also has two other patents on VoIP technology, along with two patents covering audio-conferencing.

C2 has launched several lawsuits against companies it has accused of infringing on the '373 patent, the most recent being against PAETEC, Matrix Telecom, Windstream and Telephone and Data Systems, in August 2009.

In 2008, companies who settled with C2 and agreed licensing terms included Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, Qwest, Global Crossing and Level 3.

Editorial standards