The giants of the technology industry have some pretty fascinating bits of intellectual property lurking in their patent portfolios. For most, patents are a defensive strategy, rather than a business in and of themselves; although in recent years Microsoft, for example, has become much more sophisticated about how they manage those patents. Some of the patents these players are sitting on, though, are potentially very disruptive, should they ever decide to flex their muscle a little.
Take, for instance, this little beauty that was pointed out to me yesterday. The abstract for US Patent 7120140, titled Digital Browser Phone, reads:
A telephone system wherein all the functions of a digital telephone can be accessed and implemented on a personal computer alone, thereby eliminating the need for a telephone set. By means of the computer display and mouse, keyboard or other input/output command devices, a user accesses and implement all digital telephone functions without the physical telephone set, the personal computer also providing the audio function. A graphical representation of a telephone set or other telephone-related form is provided on the computer display and accessed by the mouse, keyboard or other command device, this being accomplished by a computer program providing graphical interface implementation. A significant advantage of the system is computer access to and utilization of digital telephone functions from a remote location with communication via Internet, LAN, WAN, RAS or other mediums.
It covers softphones, generally, and more specifically softphones used in business settings. Filed in 2000 and granted late in 2006, this is Intel property. If you're a softphone vendor this has got to send a shiver down your spine, and then make you wonder what kind of relationship you can and should have with Intel.