In yet another example of how the patent system continues to issue patents that should never have been granted, 8×8 has been awarded a patent for hosted VoIP PBX systems. Interesting, because I remember writing extensively about just this subject (except it was called IP Centrex or Net Centrex) in the 1990s. Virtual PBX, which has been offering hosted PBX services since 1997 and pioneered this space, also comes to mind. AccessLine has also been offering IPBX services for several years, at least. Apparently the US PTO does not subscribe to trade magazines like Computer Telephony (now defunct, but it was the main trade publication for computer telephony and VoIP in the 1990s).
What really bothers me about patents like this is that the patent office continues to offer “[fill in blank] on the Internet” patents. There is nothing special about a hosted PBX that runs over VoIP. Anyone who works in telecom knows that VoIP is just another bearer channel like ISDN, Voice over Frame Relay, etc.
If anybody is interested in challenging this patent, you’ll find plenty of prior art, publications and vendors who’ve been offering similar services for about ten years now.