A West Midlands firm whose invention was pitted against Microsoft in a race for a US patent has now switched its focus to creating hi-tech jobs in the region.
After three years of waiting, Group 3 Technology has finally seen its internet telephone technology granted a patent by the US authorities.
The company had effectively been on ice during that time after letting all its staff go, but now its technology has been recognised it can focus on growing the business and creating new jobs at its Aldridge base.
The patent centres around Group 3 Technology’s new way to establish communication between devices for all forms of data over the internet, offering major cost and efficiency savings.
The firm’s director Gerald Leighton said before the patent application, he employed 12 people in the UK as well as six in Pakistan, but he had to wind the company down to just himself to focus on the patent process.
“We kept the systems all running but, because of who we were up against, we couldn’t go forward,” he said.
“No organisation would be interested when we had to tell them ‘we’ve got this technology, we have proved it works but we are up against Microsoft.’
“We’ve got to resurrect everything now and bring it up to date and get ready for a release in the first quarter next year.”
With US and European patents secured, the company has already started taking people on again.
Mr Leighton said the firm had the potential to create at least 15 positions over the next six months as growth plans are realised.
Traditionally, to make a call over the internet, callers must connect via a VoIP provider company which needs special servers and large bandwidth internet connections to service those calls.
But Group 3 Technology’s service eliminates the need for special servers or large internet capacity by sending the call directly from the caller’s device to the called device, so only the initial set up of the call goes via the VoIP provider.
Group 3 Technology was set up in 2002 by Gerald Leighton, already a successful entrepreneur following the sale of his telecoms company ACT in that year. The firm was unfortunate in the launch of its first VoIP product when, four days earlier, Skype hit the headlines offering free VoIP.
This led to change in strategy and the development of a new method that did not involve file-resource sharing like Skype and did not involve hosting all the internet calls.
Group 3 Technology has just been recognised as the overall winner at this year’s ICT Excellence Awards 2010, and the firm has taken home a cheque for £2,000.
Mr Leighton added: “It is an immense honour given the tremendous hard work, obstacles and turmoil we experienced along the way.
“All our developments were put on hold for three years as result of the formidable patent contention in the USA – now we can concentrate on completing the browser-based phone application functioning on any PC or laptop and also applying it to mobiles with internet access.”