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Apple Now Relaying All FaceTime Calls Due To Lost Patent Dispute 179

Em Adespoton writes "Before the VirnetX case, nearly all FaceTime calls were done through a system of direct communication. Essentially, Apple would verify that both parties had valid FaceTime accounts and then allow their two devices to speak directly to each other over the Internet, without any intermediary or 'relay' servers. However, a small number of calls—5 to 10 percent, according to an Apple engineer who testified at trial—were routed through 'relay servers.' At the August 15 hearing, a VirnetX lawyer stated that Apple had logged 'over half a million calls' complaining about the quality of FaceTime [since disabling direct connections]."
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Apple Now Relaying All FaceTime Calls Due To Lost Patent Dispute

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  • uhuh sure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joining Yet Again ( 2992179 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:43AM (#44730719)

    Nothing to do with ability to intercept.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:46AM (#44730741)
      Your thought crime has been logged.

      NSA bot #43386
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Your sarcastic comment regarding civil liberties has been logged.

        NSA bot bot #43387.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:06AM (#44730877)

          Two-party communication regarding civil liberties detected. This conspiracy has been flagged for follow-up.
          NSA bot bot #43385.

          • So does this mean the watchers are watching themselves?
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward

              nope.. the two bots are working together to protect us from the terrible secret of space.

    • There will always be a possibility of intercept as long as Apple keeps the source code secre and prevents you from rebuilding and installing the software on the mobile computer. You would have to use free software on hardware controlled by you in order to avoid it.

    • Re:uhuh sure (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bmo ( 77928 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:46PM (#44731449)

      This is marked troll, but consider that Skype has been taken from a distributed system to a system with a central server farm in Redmond.

      Totally more inefficient for users (relaying makes Skype suck more), but much more efficient for TLAs.

      And considering recent events (and events over the past 20 years, really) it's common sense.


      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        The 'common sense' for the wannabe tyrants is not the 'common sense' for the liberties of the rest of us.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Skype was moved to centralized servers so they could survive the new era of communications: mobile devices. It was impossible to do Skype on mobile devices without centralized servers because the P2P communications would eat your battery AND your data bill. I'm sure this helps with interception as well, but it wasn't he main intention. This is discussed in detail by a former Skype engineer here:

    • Re:uhuh sure (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebike ( 68054 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:56PM (#44731495)

      Nothing to do with ability to intercept.

      Wait, why was parent marked troll?

      In the case of Skype the very FIRST thing Microsoft did (was forced to do) was bring all call routing back through their own servers

      How do you know the patent troll in this case wasn't funded by the NSA to force the very same thing on Apple? By forcing Apple to route all sessions through their already compromised data centers, the ability for the government to monitor the calls is restored, and Apple doesn't have to admit anything. Apple already appears on the leaked Prism source chart []. So forcing all facetime sessions to go through already compromised data centers would be a high priority for the NSA.

      I don't think you can dismiss out of hand the possibility that this was a planned outcome.

  • by bogaboga ( 793279 )

    Well, I noted that some "patent expert" didn't report this at all, despite being one who is self proclaimed as following and reporting on patent issues. I am sure if this involved Google/Motorola or Android, this "expert" would have lots to report on the issue. I will abbreviate his name as FM. Is there a trend?

    • Nobody really cites him anymore as a legitimate resource ever since he was outed as an Oracle paid shill. His focus isn't so much on praising Apple as much as it is shining negative light on Google. Seeing as this has basically nothing to do with Google, he likely simply didn't have anything to say, because he's not getting paid to say it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by the_B0fh ( 208483 )

        Curious, I see everyone calling him a paid shill. However, I haven't seen any evidence that he actually does that? He presents his source materials for his analysis.

        How is he a shill? Just because he needs to make a living and gets paid by Oracle - and publicly announces that he does get paid by Oracle?

        • by marcosdumay ( 620877 ) <marcosdumay@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:36PM (#44731399) Homepage Journal

          Look at the proceedings of the Oracle x Google case about the Java patents. Oracle listed him as a paid source.

        • He didn't publicly announce it. It was found out after years of him hiding it due to the lawsuit between Oracle and Google.

          • In school, when I do my homework, I had to present my work, step by step, and cite my sources.

            He appears to do that in his blog posts. So are you saying that he is a factual shill?

            And I thought it was a few months, not a few years (I didn't follow it that closely).

            • > []

              " A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization. "

              Yes, he is a factual definition.

            • Of course the guy is a shill. He was being paid by Oracle to write pro-Oracle commentary. Worse, it's not even the first time he did it. Remember all the nonsense he posted on the SCO vs. Linux battles? The guy is a dishonorable piece of shit.

              • Curious what nonsense are you referring to? I don't remember (even though my friend was one of the "holder" of evidence for that trial)

        • by Stumbles ( 602007 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:53PM (#44731481)
          He is a shill because for a very very long time he bashed many companies along with PJ over at Groklaw while PRETENDING to be "fair and balanced", etc , etc. Anyone with a modicum of comprehension skills could easily tell from his writings he was being paid, yet for the longest time he denied such a thing. In others words just to be clear: he was lying out his ass about his motivations. Then again there wasn't a single bit of his "legal" analysis that prove to be correct or true. Which no doubt is why he had a bone to pick with PJ because she would shred his analysis and to boot she was right. So no he isn't a shill because he is paid by Oracle, he is one for hiding it and then when it became clear he needed to, owned up to it.

          If you haven't seen any evidence, then you have not actually done any looking.

          Anyway, I cannot see why anyone would put any stock in anything he has to say.

          • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
            There was no evidence for a long time, though, and the people are very easily led to smearing others who disagree with their opinions.

            The thing that really erased all semblance of credibility from him is when he was revealed to be on Oracle's payroll throughout the Oracle v. Google case which he covered extensively (and almost invariably rooted in favor of Oracle, strangely enough!). Never once did he put a disclaimer saying he had ties with Oracle; instead, he actively denied it. THAT is inexcusable and
      • Nobody really cites him anymore as a legitimate resource ever since he was outed as an Oracle paid shill.

        Nobody with a brain really cited him as a legitimate resource before either.

  • What patent? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:53AM (#44730805)

    What is the patent involved here? Establishing a connection between two entities on an IP network? NAT traversal techniques? Usage of Interactive Connectivity Establishment protocols?

    • Re:What patent? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:13AM (#44730923)

      What is the patent involved here? Establishing a connection between two entities on an IP network? NAT traversal techniques? Usage of Interactive Connectivity Establishment protocols?

      Better question: Who cares? The patent system is so hopelessly corrupt it might as well be "Company A wants to extort money from Company B"... and so, a patent is produced, that is vaguely worded and could possibly cover something vaguely related to what Company B does. And then it's elephant mating season, with its attendant judges, teams of lawyers, reporters, etc. ...

      I gave up long ago trying to keep up with the news on these things -- is the patent valid? Isn't it? What legal process will happen now? Aww fuck it. You know what; Corporations are like children. They don't play well with others and really need their ass paddled to learn some discipline. Unfortunately, Uncle is drunk off his ass ranting about the war and not watching the kids...

      • Re:What patent? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:19AM (#44730959)

        The technology to establish a connection between two peers for voice or video communication is standardized, in particular by the IETF, and implemented by many vendors.
        If there is a patent on that technology, that would put into question hundreds if not thousands of products worldwide.

        • SIP is another standard for VOIP. It works with off the shelf hardware from many vendors as well as softphones.

    • Re:What patent? (Score:5, Informative)

      by teg ( 97890 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:17AM (#44730949) Homepage

      What is the patent involved here? Establishing a connection between two entities on an IP network? NAT traversal techniques? Usage of Interactive Connectivity Establishment protocols?

      Following links in the article will eventually get you to an article listing the patents [].

      • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:07PM (#44731203)

        The patents in question describe nothing more than perfectly normal combinations of Internet services that any software engineer who knows basic networking would be expected to create as a matter of course. Combining such services into higher protocols is simply algorithmic construction in network programming.

        This patent suit illustrates well the chilling effect that software patents have on our ability to use computers and the Internet to best effect. When you allow software algorithms to be locked away in patents, the ability of engineers to use computers and networks as an enabling technology decreases dramatically, to the extreme detriment of our ability to improve our systems.

        Each new software patent just adds further bars to the prison. If this disease isn't stopped soon, the profession is going to be worthless except as a feeding pit for lawyers.

        • by gutnor ( 872759 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:13PM (#44731593)

          When you allow software algorithms to be locked away in patents

          Actually that is not the biggest problem. That would be fair enough if those algorithm required years of R&D. What we are talking about here is stuff that is normal everyday problem to solving for the engineer in charge of developing the feature.

          Patent are supposed to expose secrets in exchange for a temporary monopol. However, if nobody look at the patents to find those secrets and yet manage to reinvent them, what exactly is the value of those patent ? If you have a patent system where people need to search for the patent to license after they have made their product, your patent system is broken at a fundamental level.

      • How about an idea for fixing it as follows...

        If you create a patent, you are responsible for finding infringements of the patent in products (as usual) and once you do, you can only claim a royalty of a maximum 90% of the revenue from the product less marginal costs from once the infringement was found, no previous damages or anything and the company is still allowed to continue production. This 90% however is divvied up between all patent holders who find infringements.

        So that should cut patent troll re
    • What is the patent involved here? Establishing a connection between two entities on an IP network? NAT traversal techniques? Usage of Interactive Connectivity Establishment protocols?

      No, its "telephony .. over the internet, on a COMPUTER!!1 or smartphone!777"

  • by Gocho ( 16619 )

    How is this different from canreinvite=yes/no in Asterisk? Doesn't SIP allow for the same thing?

  • We've had to evaluate several systems for possible deployment where I work. Invariably, they want to route all calls through a central server. So if someone on a site a hundred miles away wants to talk to someone on the same site, it routes the call all the way back to a main server, then all the way back to the tower and out over the air. Who gives a crap about delay or user experience any more?

    Why do they do this? They say customers are requiring all calls to be logged, and sending all traffic back to the

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      It can just be told to experts in terms of the costs. A huge loop out via a huge US telco can be very a cheap way to get back into a region for that data use without paying full price two regional telcos direct.
    • Sarbones-oxley - and similar laws can mean that you are required to log buisness transactions.

    • Just because device A can talk to device B, and device A can talk to device C, doesn't mean that device B can talk to device C at all/completely/reliably.

      Also, CALEA very well might require this hub-routed functionality.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      What freaking customers? The NSA?

      Umm, yeah. SAIC [] is a defense contractor, headquartered right in the middle of TLA government land. I wouldn't be surprised if the settlement for infringement is 'we either sue your company into the ground or you route all traffic through a central server with our taps on it'.

    • "before every keystroke I made was logged" Think so? Maybe think again. The NSA is older than the internet...
    • by BLKMGK ( 34057 )

      Oh, so you want Skype? A P2P service with end to end crypto that uses a central login server and a distributed directory service? Sorry, Microsoft bought them and centralized their servers. They are also dropping the supported APIs real soon now (and breaking them). I hope you didn't build your business on this service (many did). Skype, was sketchy in that no one knew exactly what went on under the hood and people were starting to break into it's traffic management and directory services but i don't think

  • by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:35AM (#44731055) Homepage Journal

    Both sides in the litigation admit that if Apple routes its FaceTime calls through relay servers, it will avoid infringing the VirnetX patents. Once Apple was found to be infringing—and realized it could end up paying an ongoing royalty for using FaceTime—the company redesigned the system so that all FaceTime calls would rely on relay servers. Lease believes the switch happened in April.

    So, from that, it appears that Apple infringed up until April, but no longer does.

    Meanwhile, Apple has handed over its customer service logs from April through mid-August to VirnetX's attorneys. At the August 15 hearing, a VirnetX lawyer stated that Apple had logged "over half a million calls" complaining about the quality of FaceTime, according to Lease.

    If that's accurate, the data will bolster VirnetX's arguments that its patents are technologically significant, hard to work around, and deserve a high royalty rate.

    And if the customers are complaining because it currently uses the sucky work-around, then that also indicates that Apple stopped infringing in April.

    The judge and lawyers present at the hearing didn't discuss numbers regarding what a reasonable ongoing royalty might be, but VirnetX is asking for royalty payments of more than $700 million for the ongoing use of FaceTime, according to Lease.

    ... so why would there be ongoing royalties? If you stop using someone's patented improvement and return to using the previous, public domain system, you shouldn't have to keep paying them royalties. This would be like if someone patented a better mousetrap, and then when you stopped using it, they also wanted you to pay a royalty for owning a cat.

    • by dkf ( 304284 )

      ... so why would there be ongoing royalties?

      Presumably because the plaintiff believes that their patents are still being infringed. From the wording, I'd guess that whether that is actually true has not been decided yet; just asking for something doesn't mean they'll get it.

      ("Chocolate ice cream, please." Nope. Doesn't work.)

    • by BLKMGK ( 34057 )

      Apple is claiming that this patent wasn't critical, look how easily they removed it and worked around it, and thus they should owe little money for their infringement. Plaintiff claims that indeed this was a HUGE deal and that Apple lodging so many complaints after having removed a super duper critical feature to prevent infringement demonstrates just how critical it was and thus they should now be owners of half the company. Or something along those lines - both sides are trying to downplay or play up the

  • If the owner of the patent Facetime is infringing upon uses rounded corners for their office desks.
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:04PM (#44731547) Homepage

    Making direct connection between nodes is so fucking obvious. Any kind of service that would benefit from it, the designers would just do it. A patent that covers that in general adds nothing. A patent with some kind of innovative idea in this area might be possible for ways to improve direct communications. But such an innovative patent would not cover the obvious aspect of direct communication.

    The problem is not the patent trolls that exploit bugs in the patent system to their own unjustified financial gain. Instead, the problem is the USPTO that issues patents for obvious ideas just because they were able to find someone in their office that could not think up the idea, which appears to be more than 99% of patent applications. This is where the fix needs to happen. Patents must pass the innovation test and USPTO is not even aware how to do this test.

  • Emphasis mine:

    "Customers who want to develop their own implementation of the VirnetX patented techniques for supporting secure domain names, or other techniques that are covered by our patent portfolio for establishing secure communication links, will need to purchase a patent license."

    Hard not to notice the lack of links for say, SDK documentation, samples, registration -- just a statement that you can email them to ask. There are no demos. Also, they have crawling disabled. So I can't, for example,

  • Okay, they have logged over a half million complaints that had something to do with FaceTime. How many did they log prior to this? How large an increase, if any, was this? Were the additional complaints having to do with something specific that leads anyone to believe it had to do with this change? did these complaints start immediately after the change? Simply the fact that a company the size of Apple has logged that many complaints doesn't seem unusual at all, this article lacks a great deal of context ar

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:29PM (#44732293)

    That's exactly how SIP based VOIP phones have always worked. The routing information is passed over SIP and the voice connection is free to be routed over a different path, or directly.

    I'd read TFA but I can't be bothered. Other comments here mention the patents being filed in 2002/2003. The SIP RFC was filed in mid 2002. Maybe I should be on the lookout for new RFCs and file patents for every one of them that looks interesting.

  • Your browser (Chrome, Firefox) probably already has more advanced technology onboard than Facetime.

    It's called WebRTC and allows peer 2 peer video, audio and data communication and it's always encrypted.

    If you ask me, it's the right time to start adoption of WebRTC.

  • Seems Napster was setting up peer to peer connections around 1998 or 1999.

    I'm not sure how this invention isn't obvious after Napster.

  • had the crappiest time using FaceTime for D&D last Wednesday. Knowing that I'm not using a direct connection would explain the crappy video quality, frequent disconnects, and audio dropouts. Guess we'll have to start using a second SKYPE account.

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