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Cisco Patents the Triple Play 143

Posted by kdawson
from the there-goes-the-old-ball-game dept.
Aditi.Tuteja writes, "Cisco was recently granted a patent on a 'system and method for providing integrated voice, video and data to customer premises over a single network.' Sound a lot like 'triple play?' Yes it is. The patent, which was filed back in 2000, describes a system that would allow consumers to receive all of their home services through one service provider instead of two or three. The patent's wording seems broad enough to cover nearly all existing implementations of triple play, and some are worried that Cisco will try to wield the newly granted patent against such providers as AT&T and Comcast. If such a thing were to happen, progress on AT&T's Project Lightspeed could slow even more."
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Cisco Patents the Triple Play

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  • Anyone? Anyone?
    Bueller?
    • So quick, gimme 10$
      • by Duhavid (677874)
        I patented patenting prior art, just hand that over here.

        And that.

        And the other thing.

        And those, over there.

        I'll be back for more later.
    • ...now, who you gonna get with enough cash to buy a lawyer and challenge it?

      It's a shame, but that's how it works.

    • by isaac (2852)
      RCN has provided "triple-play" voice, data, and cable tv service in a handful of big US cities since, what, 1997?

      Whether this is prior art certainly depends on the claims actually in the patent and the details of RCN's implementation, but I know they were around well before 2000.

      -Isaac

  • Will Cisco try to use the patent to stymie AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc.

    What Cisco will do is force them to pay an arm and a leg in licensing costs, because Cisco rightly figured out (in advance) that the 'triple play' is where things are heading.

    Cisco deserves a retroactive +1 Insightful mod
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      BUT, for customers (e.g. AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon) who use Cisco equipment, the licensing fees will be waived...
    • by Spasmodeus (940657) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:15PM (#16433275)
      Insightful?

      Who *didn't* think we were going to get all our services over one wire once digital bandwidth became great enough?

      It's all just data. They might as well have patented a "novel method" for sending HTTP, FTP and SMTP data over the same wire.
    • by cgenman (325138) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:16PM (#16433281) Homepage
      Generally speaking, in business when you figure out in advance where the market is heading, you get a head start on all of your competitors putting yourself in a much better position to take advantage of the change. You do not, however, generally get to tax all transactions. I knew that online purchasing was going to take off years ago. Does that mean that I deserve to get paid once everyone else figured this out too?

      Cisco figured this out ahead of time and positioned their product line to take advantage of the burgeoning communications infrastructure market. They deserve the financial success they've seen from this shrewd business accumen. They don't, however, deserve 5 dollars of every 50 I send to Comcast simply because they realized the obvious first.

      • by LoadWB (592248) *
        But did they? I remember all this BS was promised to us back in the 80's. Who was conjecturing it then?
    • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:53PM (#16433465)
      Yes, it was an insightful move, but not one that deserves a 17 year revenue stream. The US PTO deserves a -1 Redundant.

    • Maybe this is a good patent, but we can surely debate on this one. I mean that it's not nearly as broad as the statement makes it out to be. Cisco's main claim to innovation here is the dynamic access lists that affect routing of multicast traffic based on individual customers' subscriptions. That's pretty broad, but it's nowhere near a blanket patent on triple-play in general. To the extent that anyone has to worry about the patent, it's not Comcast or AT&T. It would be Nortel and Extreme and other ne
    • They may be insightful in the choice of companies/technologies they purchase, but not particularly in inventiveness. They're much like Microsoft - they buy technologies that have been shown to be "just good enough" to be successful in the marketplace, then try to "proprietary-ize" them to lock customers in.

      Delivering multiple media across a network is neither original or insightful, and was being done in practice long before 2000.
  • by LoadStar (532607) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:03PM (#16433219)
    The reason Cisco is patenting this is because they now own Scientific-Atlanta, who are one of a few companies that provide the infrastructure that make it possible for Time Warner, Comcast, et. al. to offer "triple play" or "all in one" or whatever brand name your particular cable operator uses for the combination. If Cisco were to sue someone for using this, it wouldn't be the cable operators - it'd be Motorola or whomever, their competitors who also offer a similar infrastructure.

    I'm not exactly sure why the author of the article thinks that they'd sue the cable operators, many of whom use the Scientific-Atlanta technology in question... perhaps he wasn't aware of the link between Cisco and Sci-Atl.. which leads me to question his authority to even speak on the topic in the first place.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)
      Honest question: Does using Cisco/Scientific-Atlanta equipment automagically license the companies to use that patent?

      It seems to me that anyone without a patent license could build equipment capable of doing data/voice/video... but the end user couldn't use all three features without a license.

      Or did I miss something?
      • Cisco/Sci-At probably have indemnity clauses in their licensing agreements to the cable operators. That, and it would be monumentally stupid for them to sue for patent infringement by devices they've already provided to paying customers (they won't be paying customers any more!).
    • by supersat (639745) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:38PM (#16433387)
      The reason Cisco is patenting this is because they now own Scientific-Atlanta ... except the patent was applied for in 2000, and the acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta was only announced in late 2005.
      • by xigxag (167441) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @12:52AM (#16433747)
        In addition, it appears that the patent was thought up by techs at a company gobbled up by Cisco, not a homegrown invention.

        A couple of things:

        1) This appears to be a rather detailed and well-thought out patent. Although the "triple play" concept may seem obvious in hindsight, the implementation of it, converting everything into a single protocol, is not necesarily the only way to go, and seems as worthy of being patented as most other inventions that have received the imprimatur of the USPTO throughout the years.

        2) Since, as I said, their implementation is not necessarily the only way to handle multiple types of data, a competing company could get around licensing by simply keeping the protocols separate. Cable wiring and fiber are obviously fat enough to multiplex various datastreams at once, hence instead of converting at the source, one might be able to avoid the Cisco tax by overlaying the various incompatible networks on top of each other and let the set top boxes sort things out at the receiving end. Chances are, though, that if that's worth doing at all, someone's patented it already.
        • I'm not sure I agree that it is a good patent and I do foresee problems which may well arise from this. The first 75% of the patent is a digest presentation of common knowledge coupled with all the domains for which they claim dibs (any networking domain or concept publicly available when the patent was written, from satellite communication to DSL and Cable) while the last 25% started to go in to the more specific suggestions of how they propose some sets of problems *may* be solved:
          • High availability (redu
        • by Aceticon (140883)
          It seems to me that once again the patents system is not protecting real innovation, but instead protects "Being the first to write down a patent for an obvious approach to solve a problem".

          Creating and using one standard format for various types of data is the kind of solution that has been used for loads of years in the area of software, more specifically EAI (Enterprise Application Integration).

          So some guys got together and said - "Hey, lets do the same but over a transmission line!" - and this stuff is
    • by voidptr (609)
      As someone else said, the SA aquisition came later.

      What's more important is that Cisco owns the entire backend technology for the system too. They sell the routers, the DSL and Cable headends, the media converters for IPTV, and the call manager hardware to do 300,000 subscriber VOIP and convert it to SS7 for the phone network. It all works together as one integrated technology for the service provider. Comcast, TWC, and Verizon buy all of the above by the truckload.

      This is their play to keep Juniper, Nortel
    • by Duhavid (677874)
      According to the header, the patent was filed in 2000,
      Cisco bought SA earlier this year. [wikipedia.org]

    • by Em Ellel (523581)

      If Cisco were to sue someone for using this, it wouldn't be the cable operators - it'd be Motorola or whomever, their competitors who also offer a similar infrastructure.

      By 2000 a company called Next Level Communications(then part owned, now completely owned by Motorola) was selling this technology (or at least something similar, here is a random link to the company description [business.com]) I doubt Cisco would have much luck defending this patent if they went after Moto.

      -Em

  • by bughouse26 (975570) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:07PM (#16433235)
    I call dibbs on creating a patent for opening 4 simultaneous TCP/IP sockets!
  • Cisco, a company I don't like, would use this against AT&T or comcast. Two other companies I don't like.

    I fail to see the problem here.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hemogoblin (982564)
      You'll realize there's a problem when they pass the cost onto you, the consumer.
    • by infolib (618234)
      When the elephants fight, the grass is trampled

      -- Ancient African proverb.

      (Ok, I don't know if it's really African, but it sounds like that, what with elephants and stuff).
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:17PM (#16433283)
    Think about it: Cisco going after their biggest customers-- Verizon, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Comcast, TW/Brighthouse?

    Nope. Not going to happen. And therefore, despite the fact that this patent needs to be thrown out on its ass, it's useless to even have the first tiny tort sent. It's a nihilistic sort of patent to start with....
  • It's all really single play isn't it? 0s and 1s. Whichever marketing (or engineer, you never know) guy came up with this idea should be hanged on the spot.
  • by BSDevil (301159) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:18PM (#16433289) Journal
    What the fuck is triple-play?
    • by Trifthen (40989)
      I'm not really sure, but I think it involves your mom.

      (Seriously, it's offering voice, TV and internet from the same service. Completely lame patent and all that jazz.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      It's a baseball term. There are 3 outs in an inning. Let's say there are 2 men on base and 1 batter. Well, the batter then hits a long pop fly ball that's caught, but since the other 2 guys are leading off, they have to tag up first before stealing the bases. If the team can tag the bases before the runners can get back to them, you'll have a "triple-play" off of one pitch. Don't you cricket folks have something like that?
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        Don't you cricket folks have something like that?

        Nope.

        For a start, there are only two batters on the field at any one time, so a double play is the most you could ever get.

        And second, once you get one person out the ball is dead and you can't go for a second out.
      • by strider44 (650833)
        A hattrick (yes that term is originally from Cricket), though I'm sure a cricketing hattrick is much rarer. According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] there's been just 36 of them in the recorded history of international test cricket.
      • Here's a more likely situation:
        Runner on first and third,
        A line drive is caught by the third-baseman right over third base. He steps on third base and fires to first before the runner can get back to the bag.

        Here's an example of one that utilizes a strike-out to make the triple play
        http://youtube.com/watch?v=O2ZnQMV03iM [youtube.com]

        Here's a comprehensive explanation:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_play_(baseball ) [wikipedia.org]
    • by locokamil (850008)
      Seriously. You ask-- on a forum full of geek nerds who are reading Slashdot on a Friday night-- what "triple play" is.

      You deserve every single bad ménage a trois joke you get. :)

      That said, it refers to a service that provides phone, cable and broadband internet over the same pipe.

      Dammit. A tube joke. I can't shake them... sorry.
      • by mikeydb (880405)
        We get two pipes from our cable co (i'm in the UK) one cable for tv and internet, another cable for the telephone. Arguably all the signals get here some of the way via one pipe but it had to be joined together at some point and it get's split up eventually, I think that relies upon multiplexing and demultiplexing, either by frequency division or time division, not a new idea even in the year 2000..
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      It's a typical sports-oriented marketing term that the advertisers and buzzword junkies are so fond of. "ICUP" (internet, cable, usenet, phone) service does not sound nearly as exciting or sexy.

      Of course, the Brits, if they ever get this, will make up some cutesy-sounding shorthand for it. Something like "pee-pee", probably.
      • by BiggyP (466507)
        As the AC said, NTL and Telewest cable operators already provide this, and have done for some time, cable broadband internet, cable digital TV with VoD and cable telephone, they tend to wrap them up together in, relatively, low cost bundles.
  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:29PM (#16433333)
    The absurdity of this patent is mind boggling. All a network does is move data. Voice and video may be encoded as data, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the network.

    Why don't I just patent moving web pages over networks. Or, moving mp3s over networks. (Now there's an idea for the RIAA...) Just how obvious does something need to be for the folks at the patent office? Moving DATA over a NETWORK? How novel...

    This just goes to show that everything should be encrypted. Only then can fairness, and the end-end nature of the Internet be restored. As soon as the ISP's can peek at your data, you may as well bend over.
    • The bottom line is ultimtely, the Triple-Play should dissolve anyway since once enough people go VOIP, there's absolutely no reason to pay for POTS termination, a service provider, or anything. By that time, someone will have simplified the asterisk implementation enough to not only put it on a WRT54GS (already done) but also make it simple to configure (not so far off).. Anyway, sooner or later, there will be no point in paying a provider for telephone service. I can't wait for POTS to die a horrible death
    • You can send voice, video and data with a single analogue signal though. In fact, that's how TV has worked in the UK for about 30 years.
  • Joke's on them... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by psiogen (262130) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:29PM (#16433337) Homepage
    I just patented a scheme whereby a company abusively patents anything it can possibly think of in order to squeeze money out of nothing! Pay up, Cisco!
  • RCN does this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:33PM (#16433353) Homepage Journal
    They offer $90.00 a month for 10mbps DSL, VOIP phone and HD/Digital cable.
    Sweet deal, but here in SF they seem to be quite spotty as to what buildings have it.. to the point of being a joke.
    But I'm just bitter because the building across the street has it and my lofts I live in doesn't.
    Instead I have Earthlink DSL which gives me 8mbps and VOIP phone for $70.
    So I guess 2 out of 3 ain't bad.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alarash (746254)
      They offer $90.00 a month for 10mbps DSL, VOIP phone and HD/Digital cable. Sweet deal, but here in SF they seem to be quite spotty as to what buildings have it.. to the point of being a joke.
      Sweet deal? Jesus, in Europe this goes for 29,99. You can even 20Mbps if you are eligible (ie: the DSLAM near you is upgraded for ADSL2+).
  • by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:40PM (#16433393)
    This sounds to me like a patent Cisco would use as leverage, not for direct revenue. (insert company here) could be swayed to buy products or license other patents from Cisco, to avoid being called on the carpet with respect to their 'triple-play' offerings. Maybe now we'll see (if we don't already) telcos and cable ISPs using Cisco hardware exclusively (paid for by the customer, of course, but mandated by the ISP at Cisco's behest)..that would be a huge financial win for Cisco, and would probably be the path of least resistance for the ISPs.
  • by JFMulder (59706) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:42PM (#16433409)
    I prefer to call it "Ménage à trois". :)
  • I seem to recall using webcams and the like in 2000 over the interweb. Granted webcam != broadcast TV but the principle is the same just the scale is different.

    How the hell isn't this patent just blatantly invalid? /me hides in Canada...

    Tom
  • by WillRobinson (159226) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:50PM (#16433449) Journal
    I believe its ok to have a patent on an idea, only if the language is specific to the actual item, to the minute detail. Language such as "standard protocol, such as TCP/IP" is not. Thats similar to having a patent on popping popcorn using heat.
    • by dmaserver (978729)
      and where Microsoft [in good company] reign http://www.flickr.com/photos/17093805@N00/22370701 8/in/set-72157594260547553/ [flickr.com]
    • by cronius (813431)
      I believe its ok to have a patent on an idea, only if the language is specific to the actual item, to the minute detail.

      But why though? I'm not trying to flamebait, but why should someone be allowed to own an idea, ie one of my thoughts, just because they thought that thought before me?

      I sit quietly in my office and think of a system where video, tv and phone goes over the same wire conveniently for the user. I start a business to sell this, but I'm slapped in the face with a patent violation because "well,
      • I agree with you on that.

        But with the current system which is in place, just requiring specific implementation would be an improvement. For example, you both have the same idea, but there is two different approaches to the same end. You both should be able to make your idea fly, without litigation. And then the best implementation, price, function, marketing etc., would win the market share.

        I feel you should not be able to patent vague ideas, thoughts, generic processes.

        If you give me a problem, and I can t
  • Old prior art (Score:4, Informative)

    by stox (131684) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:50PM (#16433451) Homepage
    Isn't this exactly was promised by ISDN in the early 1980's? Somehow, it never got past step #1, ie. 2B+D. The plan was, once it caught on, things would scale up as the end user was able to consume bandwidth. 95B+D anybody? Oh, never mind, AT&T's patents for ISDN have probably all expired. If we take the same idea, and color it pink, the PTO will gladly patent it for us.
  • Considering how inept the patent office seems to be I think I'm going to patent the act of looking at the sky. While I'm at it I think I'll patent the act of defecation too.
  • Ehh (Score:2, Funny)

    by otacon (445694)
    I for one welcome our new triple play overlords
  • by mr_zorg (259994)
    Why on Earth would Cisco go after AT&T and Comcast? Cisco makes hardware. They are not an ISP or cable provider. AT&T and Comcast are providers, but they do not make hardware. It seems more likely that Cisco would go after competing hardware vendors. This may well have an impact on AT&T and Comcast, but only in the sense that they may be forced to use Cisco hardware if they want to continue offering such services.
  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @12:34AM (#16433681)
    I'm going to patent the process of providing voice, video, data, and scents. Bingo!, I trump your patent.
    • Actually scents over IP would indeed be novel and worthy of a patent - not sure about the other 3 though, I think that's been done before!
  • Surely that was 'Triple Pay' that Cisco figures they just got the patent for.

    Screw patents - ignore them at every opportunity - future generations will hold you in high regard for it.

    • Cisco is not claiming a patent on the mere idea of triple play services. The patent covers a specific implementation ("method") of offering triple play services, which is an implementation that nobody is using as yet (probably because the Cisco hardware hasn't been released yet).
  • Man, I bet Major League Baseball is going to be pissed about this.
  • TXU Electric Delivery, the largest electric company in Texas, plans on offering broadband over power lines to over 70% of its grid. TXU's partner in this venture is Current Communications Group...which has Google as an investor.

    more info here [com.com]

    Service speeds and pricing details haven't been released, but Current said the network will have enough capacity to offer customers a "triple play" package, which would include telephony, TV service and high-speed Internet access. Users will be able to access the

  • I call my idea '3/2 play'. Basically it is a system of delivering three services by load balancing all the required traffic over two lines. It is best employed when you can't deliver all three services over one line because that has been patented. (I'll license you for half the cost!)

    Oh, and this is not to be confused with my existing patent for '3 on 2 play'; a method for making pornos involving three chicks, two guys, a trampoline and 1.5 tons of peanut butter.
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday October 14, 2006 @02:00AM (#16434039) Homepage Journal
    AIM, Yahoo, and MSN offred this *WAY* before the patent in question. Cisco is a bunch of fucking fools for even trying to follow up with this, as I've been doing this since 1998. Two years too fucking late, boys. You got a problem with it, then deal with this expert witness in court, who has no shame in shutting you down for your ignorance and greed. Dunno about the rest of the /. crowd, but I won't stand for this one.
  • Cisco's contact us link is inexplicably slow/down suddenly (it took ten minutes to even get the page to load.) C'mon, you cowards, start owning up to your own foul play, or get the hell off our internet. Nothing is worse than when we wish to contact you and you have your mail server slashdotted, especially since you're supposd to be the network KING OF THE WORLD. That reeks of incompetence more than anything else, and at this time, it's only driving me, and maybe many of us, away from your services. Enjoy t
  • Cisco manufacture most of the routers and other infrastructure elements which are required for a service provider (Like AT&T, etc.) to be able to make money. Cisco obviously wants the lion's share of this lucrative infrastructure market. To suggest they may take legal action against a provider who would be a potentially lucrative client is simply a foolish notion. If they forcefully stop the service providers from providing specific services, then they won't be able to sell them infrastructure equipm
  • As it is, Lightspeed's momentum is nearing that of molecules in an absolute-zero environment.
  • I worked for iMagicTV in partnership with Newbridge networks (remember them?) in the 'frontier days' of ITPV in 1999 and 2000.

    I read through the patent, there is a lot of prior art for this.

    In June 2000 I was at Supercom in Atlanta and was involved in at least 6 booths who were publically selling this same 'System and method for providing integrated voice, video and data to customer premises over a single network ' solution. There were several public trials underway by the time this patent was filed.

    This i
  • Cisco already has the highest markup in the business, to the envy of everyone else.

    Overheard in a pricing discussion on a new router at Cisco:

    Mgr. of marketing: "Well, the overall manufacturing costs of this box is $3250. What should we sell it for?. 10x or $32,500 as usual?"
    V.P: "Well, that number looks a little constructed. Let's say $36,847"
    All: "Done"

    This patent will allow them to keep it that way.

    If you work for a company like Dell, or Gateway, start to cry now, or maybe look for a new job...
  • By this logic I can patent a method of arranging a unique set of molecules into an Amino acid [wikipedia.org]. This means that every restaurant or food grower on the planet owes me a license.
  • Prior Art (Score:4, Informative)

    by Martin Spamer (244245) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @07:22AM (#16435021) Homepage Journal
    I worked for Kingston Interactive Television which was the first commercial launch of an Interactive Digital Television over ADSL in October 1999.

    KIT offered the three services that are now called Triple play, Telephone, Video (both VOD and broadcast) and data (Internet and Walled Garden content).

    Kingston Interactive Television October 1999. [google.co.uk]
  • Common solution direction of anyone skilled in th art...

    So how many skilled in the art, to come up with the same solution, before the USPTO recognizes the solution or solution direction is not novel?

    How many consumers whould have come up with the one click shopping idea/app. had they just had the easy enough for them to use, programming tools?

    dumbing down consumers works for who?
  • That patent doesn't give Cisco the sole rights to any "triple play". The patent claims sole rights to

    A method for providing integrated voice, video, and data content in an integrated service offering to one or more customer premises includes receiving television programming from a programming source, receiving data from a data network, and receiving telephone communications from a telephone network.

    That's "A" method. Their method, specified in their patent. If the patent doesn't describe a specific worki

  • they can afford to license it, likely they will just do a patent swap locking startups out of this sort of service. It is not goign to even impact us regular folks.

    -- "PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN. Coffee is for closers."
  • If such a thing were to happen, progress on AT&T's Project Lightspeed [CC] could slow even more.

    The project must be to bring back the old Ma Bell through time travel since they're working on slowing down the speed of light.

  • Maybe my Cisco stock will finally regain its Dot Com boom value.

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