Continued good news in the fight to bust bad software patents: the Patent Office has issued an encouraging office action in the reexamination of the C2 patent, one of EFF's "Most Wanted" patents. The C2 patent claims to cover a “Method and Apparatus for Implementing a Computer Network/Internet Telephone System,” broad enough to essentially wholesale claim using the Internet to call someone’s phone.

The Patent Office has agreed with many of the arguments EFF put forth in its petition for reexamination, and preliminarily found the C2 patent invalid as obvious. This first office action is non-final, which means that C2 still has the chance to respond and make its own argument in support of its patent. While this office action is not a final victory, it’s an important first step in busting a patent that stifles innovation and the use of VoIP as a free speech tool, and further cripples the progress of VoIP developers who seek to ease online communications.

This news comes on the heels of two recent cases highlighting the usefulness of reexamination proceedings like the ones that EFF has used in our Patent Busting Project. In one case, a federal district court in Arizona held that a defendant could use evidence of a Patent Office’s reexamination to help defend against a charge of willful infringement. In the other, a federal district court in Florida refused to enforce an injunction issued against a defendant when the patent under which the injunction was issued was cancelled by the Patent Office during a reexamination proceeding.

The C2 patent was one of the ten original Top Ten Patents targeted by EFF’s Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects of bad patents on the public and consumer interests. So far nine patents targeted by EFF have been busted, invalidated, narrowed, or had a reexamination granted by the Patent Office.