back to article BT unleashes SIP licensing troll army

VoIP-to-PSTN termination providers and SIP vendors will be watching their inboxes for a lawyer's letter from BT, which has kicked off a taxing licensing program levying a fee on the industry, based on a list of 99 patents. As noted in Australian telco newsletter Communications Day, the move seems to have caught the VoIP …


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  1. Steven Roper

    This is the same scumbag behaviour

    used back in the 90s by Unisys with gif and Fraunhofer with mp3:

    1. Patent an algorithm, protocol or format.

    2. Let it leak into the wider world and let people start using it.

    3. Wait in the shadows until the entire world has adopted it as a standard.

    4. Suddenly leap out of the shadows and claim "oh BTW, we own that so all you people we've been letting use it for free now have to pay up or else"

    5. ???

    6. Profit!

    This practice is deceptive, immoral and should be made illegal. Patents should be treated the same as trademarks; if you don't defend them right from the get-go, you lose them.

    I hope the greedy bastards that do this shit die in a fucking fire.

    1. Allan Thomas

      Re: This is the same scumbag behaviour

      'Patents should be treated the same as trademarks; if you don't defend them right from the get-go, you lose them.'

      Well the interesting part of that statement is you can only defend something when you know about it.

      I hope in this case that SIP technology has no doubt been reported on every medium that a small business can use the fact that BT knew about it and did nothing and that now they are asking for licencing arrangements that requests for past payment should be dismissed.

      Secondly since this is basically industry wide standard for VIOP I would also be arguing that this should be categorised as a FRAND based licence and the amounts being asked for is too excessive (especially targeted at small businesses) when the technology was sourced from another company like cisco, Microsoft, etc who should have informed the client about this sort of issue (a good way to pass the buck to someone who can defend against this crap).

      Of course what would be even better is if there was laws against this sort of action (and it should be easy to prove that they knew it was being publically used) and fine the company and/or drop the law suits currently filed as a deterrent for this sort of thing.

      1. Alex Rose

        Re: This is the same scumbag behaviour

        As far as I'm aware you can't FORCE someone to provide their patents on a FRAND basis for a standard. They have to agree to it during the drafting of the standard, if they don't the standards body should not include the patented method.

        PS. I'm not saying that BT didn't agree to the use of their patented method in the standard (if they did then of course it should be FRAND) - I can't be bothered to look to be honest - but I see lots of comments to the tune of "they should be forced to license it as FRAND" when in fact they should be FORCED to do no such thing with their property if they don't want to.

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: This is the same scumbag behaviour

      I think BT are jealous of Apple and Google and decided to launch the lawyer cannons after a manager thought this would be a good way to get their bonus.

    3. Soruk

      Re: This is the same scumbag behaviour

      Didn't they try this crap with hyperlinks in 2000? If I recall correctly this didn't go too well for them.

  2. Dazed and Confused

    Re: exploding lawyers

    That sounds like a plan.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: exploding lawyers

      More like exploding licensing department managers. That dept in BT is staffed by ex-technical ex-research most of which have never strayed out of the "magic kingdom" of Adastral Park.

      The difference between the Google vs BT salvos is that in this case the vendors which supply gear to the other SPs like Alcatel/Lucent, Cisco, etc will have to step in based on their contract. When I saw BT trying to sue Google my thought at the time was "deathwish". This is no longer a "wish" any more - it is committing a sepuku in public. More like jumping into a shark pool.

      I am not going to even get popcorn here. The entertainment will not last long enough for that.

      1. Fatman

        Re: exploding lawyers...More like jumping into a shark pool.

        Drenched in blood!!!

  3. flibbertigibbet

    How does this work?

    One of the patents listed in the licence agreement, 8,032,656, was filed in 2007. The SIP RFC is dated 2002. How does that work? In fact about 1/2 the patents were filed after the first SIP RFC was published in 1999.

    BT - Brittan's Troll.

    1. kain preacher

      Re: How does this work?

      SIP was originally designed by Henning Schulzrinne and Mark Handley in 1996. In November 2000, SIP was accepted as a 3GPP signaling protocol and permanent element of the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) architecture for IP-based streaming multimedia services in cellular systems.

      So some is late to the party.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: How does this work?

        "SIP was accepted as a 3GPP signaling protocol"

        So it is considered an 'essential patent' and so should be under FRAND terms then for 3G? Sounds like it should be FRAND elsewhere in that case.

        1. DigitalDisaster

          Re: How does this work?

          Only if BT participated in the drafting of the standard.

          1. Tom 7

            Re: How does this work?

            How could BT participate in the drafting standard - they didn't invent and patent this until after it was in the standard.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How does this work?

          Presumably it would be a FRAND commitment only if BT contributed the patented content under IETF rules. Even then arguing about the meaning of FRAND is something that ultimately can and often does go to court as there is no agreed definition. If some one else did it then its a 'submarine' patent not covered by the rules and they can ask whatever they want on nay basis up to and including exclusion. However it would be interesting to see how many of those patents would stand up to scrutiny in the UK.

        3. kain preacher

          Re: How does this work?

          SIP is an IETF-defined signaling protocol

    2. Christopher Rogers

      Re: How does this work?


      I assume you are not from around here....

      1. Dave W

        Re: How does this work?

        Or indeed "Briton's". This is the place where we pedants hang out right?

        1. Evan Essence

          Re: How does this work?

          Or, indeed, "Britons' ", as there's more than one of us.

          1. Christopher Rogers

            Re: How does this work?

            Briton's if we were referring to the natives.

            The poster was referring to the country, the spelling of which does not change in the plural as it is a name.

            Britain's Got Talent....

        2. Elmer Phud

          Re: How does this work?

          "pedants hang out right?"

          I tend to hang to the left -- was a comma missed somewhere?

    3. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: How does this work?

      This seems to happen all the time in these patent litigation cases. No-one seems to do any prior art research, and then the industry has to pick up the pieces by defending themselves in court - which if you're a dinky little company vs big old BT, you've got no chance.

      So, basically, these sort of cases simply exist because people can't afford to prove that they're trolling.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Will be interesting to see if BT attack Hipcom, which is who BT Wholesale use for white label hosted PBX services.

  5. Number6

    IAX2 anyone?

    I've always preferred IAX2 to SIP, simply because it goes through firewalls easier. Of course, I'm following in the best traditions of not looking at the patent or the prior art so for all I know, it might also fall foul of the patents.

  6. Dr. Mouse

    Maybe I missed it...

    Is there a list of the patents involved?

    I personally think BT are just playing the game here (and trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted), but I would like to see details of the patents to confirm.

    1. Richard Chirgwin (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Maybe I missed it...

      Dr Mouse -

      The list of patents is on the BT page linked in the story.

      Richard Chirgwin

      The Register

      1. Dr. Mouse

        Re: Maybe I missed it...


        I obviously didn't make it that far down the page.


    2. Jon Press

      Re: Maybe I missed it...

      I didn't look exhaustively at the patents - there are dozens - but a small sample seems not to relate to SIP specifically, but to the operation of telephone networks in general, of which SIP-based networks are simply a candidate class.

      The first of the listed (US) patents is about rerouting calls when paths between traditional telephone exchanges fail. Another, selected at random, is a means of resolving provisioning conflicts - for example detecting that adding "Call Waiting" and "Call forward on busy" to the same line are mutually incompatible. I really don't see how the first is applicable to most VoIP networks (unless they're laying claim to routing in the entire Internet) and I doubt that most VoIP providers bother with such niceties as detecting feature clashes by means of conflict graphs.

      I don't see many small VoIP providers having the resources to analyze 99 separate patent claims. However, I'd have thought their equipment suppliers would be keen to find a resolution as they're not going to be selling much kit in future otherwise.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Was this another patent that BT developed while they were state owned or did they actually do something since the they went private other than sit around on their arses enjoying their monopoly?

    1. james 68

      BT privatised in 1984

      sip patents range from 1999 onwards

  8. g e

    Hi! If you come back to BT we have a great offer for you!

    "Oh, I see, and is there a reason why you'd never use BT services again?"

    "Yes. You're a fucking patent troll. I want you to know BT's behaviour with the SIP patents is losing you my money RIGHT NOW forever. Don't call back."

    "I'm very sorry to hear that, are you sure you..." CLICK

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Hi! If you come back to BT we have a great offer for you!

      You just know that won't happen...

      Why? businesses rely on BT, the copper is all BT's in one form or another... Unless your lucky enough to be somewhere where the lines are not BT owned, your using BT.. and BT offer businesses real humans to talk to in the UK, good deals & actually send out engineers when you have a fault (not like other BB providers I've used in the past)

      1. g e

        Re: Hi! If you come back to BT we have a great offer for you!

        I was thinking more of all those home users who also punt money into BT's coffers whether through line rental only or line+calls+internet+everything.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this

    apply to providers in the UK ?

    1. James Wright

      Re: Does this

      It's a software patent, so no. Funny that isn't it! I say more power to them! It's only when we get patent armageddon will the US decide to sort out software/business process patents.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British Trollicom at it again?

    I'm unsurprised - but then, they did famously try to sue the world + dog over frivolous hyperlink-related patents, eons ago.

  11. kain preacher

    Since this is in the US, has any asked Ma Bell what she thinks? ATT has lots of VioP Patents.

  12. The BigYin




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