After strong pressure from the Elexctronic Frontier Foundation's Patent Busting Project, the US Patent and Trademark Office has agreed to review a patent it granted in 2005, called "Method and apparatus for implementing a computer network/Internet telephone system." The patent in question is owned by a company called C2 which was previously called Acceris Communications Technologies and which has never produced or sold a product. In 2006 the company sued every one of the major US Telecom carriers accusing them of patent infringement and all the carriers settled out of court with one time payments. The company says it believes that other companies are infringing its patents and that its patents cover most VoIP technology. (It also owns another VoIP-related patent).
The EFF has cited a patent application made and granted to researchers from Lucent Technologies in 1994. This patent covers many of the same developments as the C2 patent but was not included in their filing nor looked at by the patent examiner when the patent was granted.
Reexamining the patent will likely take up to a year and any appeals process could take as much as two years longer, so there is unlikely to be a resolution anytime soon. And if the patent is overturned we can expect to see an additional flurry of lawsuits and claims (which could all be resolved by C2 turning all the cash it got from the telcos to Lucent...)
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