The battle is between Google (News - Alert) and the British Telecom (BT), but everyone in the voice-over-IP (VoIP) gateways market could be collateral damage.
That’s because in its recent litigation salvo against BT, Google is taking aim with a broad VoIP gateway patent that could be used against more than just BT in the future.
The patent at issue, US6807166, was filed in 1999 and acquired from Fujitsu. It claims ownership of the basic technology behind VoIP gateways.
The patent covers a gateway for managing internet calls to and from a personal computer using a DHCP-assigned or private IP address. The patented gateway negotiates calls between a telephone line and those over a LAN, and logs the calls.
“If the LAN receiver receives an incoming call from a LAN and if the incoming call accompanies an IP address as a receiver address, the LAN receiver requests the LAN transmitter to make a call based on the incoming call, and the LAN transmitter requests the logger to log information about the call,” according to the patent.
Since this is pretty much the definition of VoIP gateway technology, the patent calls into question the legality of most VoIP gateway products currently on the market, and leaves companies with VoIP gateway products potentially open to litigation.
The consequences of the action by Google are not yet known, and it has a longstanding aversion to patent litigation. Executive chairman at Google, Eric Schmidt (News - Alert), is quoted as having said that patent wars are death and that they harm the industry as a whole.
But, as The Register noted, the company has been known to lend patents to others who do the company’s dirty work, such as Motorola (News - Alert) Mobility and HTC.
The VoIP gateway patent is one of four that is being leveraged by Google against BT, the other three coming originally from IBM (News - Alert) and encompassing technology to transfer files to a remote computer and prioritizing data over a multi-tier network.
The suit is largely understood as retaliation after BT took Google to court in 2011, according to The Register (News - Alert). BT attacked Google for patent infringement across a number of its services, including its Android mobile operating system, Google Maps, music, social networking – and even its advertising service, Adwords.
The 2011 lawsuit remains unresolved, and the two companies set a date for the hearing in July.
"We have always seen litigation as a last resort, and we work hard to avoid lawsuits," we reported a Google spokesman as having said earlier this week. “But BT has brought several meritless patent claims against Google and our customers – and they've also been arming patent trolls.”
So the gloves have come off for Google. By flexing its muscle, however, the firm also has sent a chilling signal to the VoIP gateway market.
Edited by Braden Becker