8x8 Awarded Patent for Hosted VoIP

by Brian McConnell

In yet another example of how the patent system continues to issue patents that should never have been granted, 8x8 has been awarded a patent for hosted VoIP PBX systems. Interesting, because I remember writing extensively about just this subject (except it was called IP Centrex or Net Centrex) in the 1990s. Virtual PBX, which has been offering hosted PBX services since 1997 and pioneered this space, also comes to mind. AccessLine has also been offering IPBX services for several years, at least. Apparently the US PTO does not subscribe to trade magazines like Computer Telephony (now defunct, but it was the main trade publication for computer telephony and VoIP in the 1990s).

What really bothers me about patents like this is that the patent office continues to offer "[fill in blank] on the Internet" patents. There is nothing special about a hosted PBX that runs over VoIP. Anyone who works in telecom knows that VoIP is just another bearer channel like ISDN, Voice over Frame Relay, etc.

If anybody is interested in challenging this patent, you'll find plenty of prior art, publications and vendors who've been offering similar services for about ten years now.


2006-06-15 02:05:45
I think you need to read the article more carefully - this is not a patent for Hosted VoIP, as the Yahoo article initially states, but for some technology that is incorporated into VoIP. The distinction is really important because if they had a patent on the former they could stop ANYONE from hosting VoIP, while having a patent on the latter only allows them to stop people from hosting VoIP in that particular way.

I also do not think that the patent was granted due to it being Internet related - the claim is available in the article you'd read beyond the title. Rather, the patent has been granted probably because it's using Object Oriented Programming.

Now I want to say straight away that I don't think that this patent should have been granted either (using OOP is hardly inventive!), but I'm annoyed by your article because it seems you didn't bother to read your source properly and therefore ended up getting completely the wrong end of the stick. If you're going to shout your mouth off about the patent system, you need to be sure you know what you're talking about or you end up sounding as if you're just ranting and people will stop listening. Mindless ranting is not the way to get the patent system fixed.

Also, if you'd looked up the patent itself you would have found that it contains this opening paragraph:
This patent document is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/005,053, entitled "Videocommunicating Apparatus and Method Therfore", filed on Jan. 1, 1998 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,124,882), which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/908,826, filed on Aug. 8, 1997 (now U.S. Pat. No. 5,790,712), which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/658,917, filed on May 31, 1996 (now abandoned), which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/303,973, filed Sep. 9, 1994 (now abandoned), which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 07/838,382, filed on Feb. 19, 1992, (now U.S. Pat. No. 5,379,351).

As you can see, this patent claims some connection or relationship with an application filed back in 1992 - which might cut down the amount of available prior art. This is a huge problem with the US patent system, this ability to keep on filing continuation applications with a bit more information than the application filed a year before and, by doing this for a number of years, being able to claim some sort of relationship back to an application filed a decade earlier. How strong that relationship is in this case, I do not know (I'm not an expert on continuation practice), but it almost certainly helped them to get a patent.

2008-07-11 10:29:56
We sell through our website hosted pbx service and I know of no patent problems