'Preliminary' finding invalidates VoIP patent, says EFF

Electronic Frontier Foundation has C2 Communications patent on target list

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation is claiming an early knock-down in its ongoing fight to strip a small Florida company called C2 Communications of a VoIP patent EFF calls bogus and that C2 has invoked to pry payments out of major U.S. carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Qwest.

The Patent Office agreed in February to reexamine the patent after a challenge by EFF, which has C2 listed among the Top 10 targets of its Patent Busting Project.

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From an EFF blog post yesterday:

The Patent Office has agreed with many of the arguments EFF put forth in its petition for reexamination, and preliminarily found the C2 patent invalid as obvious. This first office action is non-final, which means that C2 still has the chance to respond and make its own argument in support of its patent. While this office action is not a final victory, it's an important first step in busting a patent that stifles innovation and the use of VoIP as a free speech tool, and further cripples the progress of VoIP developers who seek to ease online communications.

You can see the C2 patent here.

When EFF succeeded in convincing the Patent Office to reexamine the C2 patent back in February, a C2 executive insisted that the challenge was without merit. From an IDG News Service story on our site:

C2's (Stephen) Weintraub downplayed the EFF's effort to have its patent invalidated.

"We don't expect that they'll be successful," he said. Since C2's predecessor applied for the patent in 1996, the company and the patent office both have examined its validity and not found any problems, and the service providers that C2 sued couldn't find a way to strike it down, either, he said.

EFF dismissed Weintraub's assertion.

"It's either a good patent or a bad patent," (EFF Legal Director Cindy) Cohn said. "It doesn't get better because you managed to squeeze money out of a bunch of people."

EFF's track record on these matters is good, which means that sound you hear may well be C2 whistling past the patent graveyard.

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