Telecom veteran questions Verizon VOIP patents

A VOIP veteran questions Verizon's patents of name translation technology

Two patents owned by Verizon Communications in its infringement lawsuit against Vonage Holdings are invalid, and if allowed to stand, could threaten all competing VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) services, a telecommunications industry veteran said Tuesday.

Two of the three Verizon patents a jury upheld in a March decision were described in a standards group called the VOIP Forum before Verizon filed for the patents, said Daniel Berninger, who had a hand in launching Vonage but now works as a telecom analyst for Tier1Research.com. The VOIP Forum described the name translation call-processing step in an open standard developed in 1996, and Verizon applied for the two patents in March 1997 and February 2000, he said in an interview about the case.

Verizon's patents focus on using name translation to connect VOIP calls to traditional telephone networks. But without name translation, no VOIP calls could be completed, and all Verizon VOIP competitors are in danger of getting sued, Berninger said. "If you translate these patents so ridiculously broadly, then there's nothing left," he said. "Everybody infringes."

Two Verizon spokesmen didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on Berninger's information.

Berninger, an advocate of open standards and cofounder of the VON Coalition, said members of the VOIP Forum talked extensively about name translation during call set-up during discussions about the voice portion of the H.323 standard during 1996, and in the parallel development of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) at the Internet Engineering Task Force. Several major tech vendors participated in the standards-setting process, and two papers on H.323 published in January 1997, one by coworkers at his former employer VocalTec Communications Ltd., describe the technologies later patented by Verizon, he said.

Other telecom experts have disagreed about whether Verizon's patents could affect other VOIP providers.

But Berninger compared name translation to the Internet's domain name system (DNS), which translates Internet domain names into IP addresses. "Essentially every VOIP provider on planet Earth" uses the name translation processing step, he said.

Vonage pointed to other technology it believed preceded Verizon's patents at a trial that ended with a March verdict that the company had infringed three Verizon patents. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia interpreted the Verizon claims too broadly to be valid, said Brooke Schulz, Vonage's vice president for communications

"The patents as filed and awarded ... were very narrow," she said. "We continue to believe, for this and many other reasons, we don't infringe on their technology."

Berninger began looking into the patents recently because of the Vonage case. In the March verdict, Vonage was ordered to pay Verizon $US58 million. Last Friday, a U.S. district court judge barred Vonage from signing up new customers, but an appeals court gave the company a temporary stay the same day.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?