On December 21, Gradient Enterprises, a non-practicing entity (e.g. troll), sued Skype for patent infringement. Skype is a peer-to-peer Internet telephony service founded in 2003 and now owned by eBay, the Canada Pension Plan, and others. Skype has had a rough Festivus.
After an outage cut voice and video to tens of millions of users, Gradient sued Skype in a New York court over U.S. patent no. 7,669,207, a/k/a the “supernode network.” Gradient applied for the patent in 2004, and it was granted this year. The outage may have been related to the spike in network traffic before the Christmas weekend. Skype executive Peter Parkes said, “[supernodes] act a bit like phone directories for Skype.”
Gradient believes that their patent, which is titled “METHOD FOR DETECTING, REPORTING AND RESPONDING TO NETWORK NODE-LEVEL EVENTS AND A SYSTEM THEREOF,” was infringed upon by Skype in their troubleshooting of the supernode network.
The lawsuit seems borderline frivolous, seeing as the patent basically gives them the rights to most decentralized network monitoring tools. The patent summary makes this argument pretty clear.
A system for detecting, reporting and responding to network node-level occurrences on a network-wide level includes one or more first mobile agents, each of the one or more first mobile agents is hosted by one of a plurality of nodes in the network.
An event detection system communicates network event information associated with an event detected at one or more of the nodes in the network to the one or more first mobile agents, and a reporting system disseminates from the one or more first mobile agents information describing the detected event to one or more other nodes.
This isn’t first frivolous patent infringement suit, and won’t be the last. Transparency can help, but transparency can also hurt.
Skype is widely expected to go public in 2011.