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Skype launched an iPhone client this week, everywhere except for Canada.  According to a Skype representative interviewed by Tom Keating, “There are some patent-licensing issues which prevent us from offering it there.”  Translation:  This is a long-term issue.  The representative further went on to state that “it’s codec related.”

I’m thinking that might be a dramatic oversimplification, and a statement made by a PR flack who can’t be expected to understand or even correctly parrot the complexities of this kind of issue.  Since Skype uses its own CODECs in many applications it is in a position to choose whichever is most convenient among those which they license and proprietarily own.  I am unaware of any CODECs which apply to the mobile VoIP space, which would be patented exclusively in Canada, that Skype might trip over. 

I’m going to guess that this is probably more related to signaling and/or call setup and I am aware of a few granted patents in Canada that might foul up Skype.  Regardless: given the murky nature of patent disputes, if they were to take on the patent holder in Canada and lose that might have a negative effect on their intellectual property claims elsewhere.  Given the cost and the risk, they may have decided it was easier to fold up the tent and give up on Canada until whomever the stool pigeon is comes to them with a reasonable settlement.

There is, fellow Canadians, an interim solution that’s pretty easy.  Thanks to a commenter from TMCNet, here’s the easy way to get it:

  1. De-authorize the computer you use to sync to the iPhone from within iTunes
  2. Grab a coupon code from a place like here.   This allows you to bypass the credit card payment process later.
  3. Redeem the code from within the iTunes Music Store … the “Redeem” button is cleverly hidden in the top right-hand side of the screen.
  4. Create a new account.  Where it asks for payment select “None” and enter a US address and zip code.  I hear 90210 is FILLED with millions of people!
  5. Search for Skype, download, and Sync.  This will *NOT* destroy existing apps you have installed, curiously enough.  YRMV.

I am really hoping that some work I did in 2005 with EQO is not responsible for this everybody-but-Canada restriction.  Here’s Skype’s preview: