Verizon Sues to Shut Down Vonage

Verizon and Vonage begin a battle over alleged patent-infringement today. From Asbury Park Press:

Vonage, which is one of the best-known brands in the Internet phone world, acknowledged last week that it doesn’t have a plan for getting around use of technology that Verizon claims violates patents it owns.

The upshot: If Verizon prevails in court, Vonage could be forced to shut down, at least temporarily, while it redesigns its service. That could cause a lot of heartburn for Vonage’s 2 million customers.

Brooke Schulz, a Vonage spokeswoman, said Monday that Verizon’s claims are baseless. “This is about Verizon trying to stifle competition,” she said. “We have not infringed on their patents, period.”

Bad news for Vonage customers, as it seems that Verizon’s “patents” are so broad they may be impossible to design around.—MEGHANN MARCO

Verizon suit a threat to future of Vonage
[APP]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Falconfire says:

    Depends on when they submitted them. If Vonage had been out and was being used before Verizon tried to submit them, the patents become invalid.

    Likewise if anyone had a Voice over IP service using tech thats close to or exactly like the Verizon patents, again it becomes invalid.

    Verizons playing with fire here, and if they lose, they could possibly shut themselves out of the 21 century telecom race.

  2. bluegus32 says:

    @Falconfire: “Depends on when they submitted them. If Vonage had been out and was being used before Verizon tried to submit them, the patents become invalid.

    Likewise if anyone had a Voice over IP service using tech thats close to or exactly like the Verizon patents, again it becomes invalid.”

    What? Where do you get this idea? I don’t follow your logic.

  3. This is less an observation of Verizon being anticompetition, but more of an observation about how the US Patent system is broken. The news article makes reference to a “gateway interface” patent that was infringed– which I believe is this patent based on claim #1 (but I’m just mindlessly speculating):

    http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6570871&id=KtYOAAAA

    If that is indeed the case, any VoIP service, not just Vonage’s, is subject to a patent infringement case. The terms of the patent are so broad it basically amounts to “Voice data sent over the internet via a codec” since a “Cellular digital vocoder” can refer to any of the number of protocols such as GSM/Speex/etc that are common with VoIP.

  4. Greeper says:

    @something_amazing: I totally agree. THe patent system is ridiculous. WHen I was a young lawyer I was assigned a patent lawsuit. It was utterly ridiculous, where the plaintiff basically claimed to patent the idea of cash back on purchases. I was told, “settle.” Why? Because juries uphold patents 95% of the time, largely because the flow charts, science, and complicated evidence is too confusing.Add that to the fact that companies patent/trademark everything from colors (Crayola) to processes (Netflix) to everyday ideas (having one line feed into seven registers (Borders and BEst Buy) instead of 7 lines). THrow in high technology and watch madness ensue!

  5. Dont Know Me? You Are Me. says:

    I am a Vonage customer. My only phone line at home (other than a pair of cell phones for myself and the wife) is a Vonage line. No matter what happens, I will be disappointed if my service is interrupted.

    That said, I also agree that the patent system is broken. Our 12-employee company has been involved in two patent lawsuits this past year, both completely bogus, and both “settled” to avoid the $500K-$1M legal bill just to DEFEND a frivolous suit. We can’t even afford to argue our side of the story, forget the judge/jury & winning or losing.

    This is why some companies that hold international patents are opting to take the case to other countries, like Germany, where the outcome is more uncertain but much more rapid and cheap because of a very limited discovery process.

    In any event, Falconfire’s point about the possibility of this patent being improperly granted is interesting. Of course, Vonage didn’t exist in 1996, but certainly there were other inventors working in this area by then. Considering the application date of Verizon’s patent, I don’t think it will be hard to find prior art.

    However, the courts are often much quicker than the patent office (if you can believe it, i.e. RIM lawsuit) and tend to uphold even the most ridiculous patents until the PTO gets around to fixing their mistakes.

  6. esqdork says:

    The question is whether Vonage has the stomach for a drawn out patent suit. Even if the trial court finds in favor of Verizon, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (which hears appeals of patent cases) reverses trial courts over 50% of the time (I think). Of course, damages and interest continue to accrue.

  7. homerjay says:

    “Vonage, which is one of the best-known brands in the Internet phone world, acknowledged last week that it doesn’t have a plan for getting around use of technology that Verizon claims violates patents it owns.”

    And because of this I am now in the process of switching back to Verizon from Vonage. Its unfortunate, but I can’t keep my business lines in the hands of a company with no plan.
    I liked them, too.

  8. FLConsumer says:

    Whatever you do, don’t give it back to Verizon. I’ve ported all of my Verizon, Sprint, and Vonage lines over to Viatalk. No issues with outages (Viatalk has multiple data centers around the country instead of just 1 like Vonage), tech support is US-based, a ton more features, and for $8-9/mo per line, you can’t go too wrong. I don’t work for them, just a customer.

  9. Scott Vieth says:

    After all of the struggles I had with Vonage and trying to port a phone number, I don’t think I would lose sleep over them being run out. Selfishly, I would “win” in a way, because I have a contract due to getting a PC from Micro Center. Them losing = me getting out of the contract without ETF’s.

    That said, Verizon isn’t exactly this great cozy company I like either. Talk about a no-win!

  10. warchild says:

    @FLConsumer : Cheap price for 500 minutes.. if you want unlimited minutes, it goes up big time.. $37/mo ..

  11. FLConsumer says:

    @warchild: It works out to ~$8-9/mo for residential lines. Business lines are always going to be more. If you have enough lines to justify it, their wholesale rates are very favorable ($0.75/DID line). $37/mo is still less than what Verizon would charge for a basic line plus fees. Unlike Vonage, Viatalk includes the taxes & fees in their prices.

  12. SexCpotatoes says:

    I love ViaTalk, I ported my residential number over to their service back in September of last year, back when they had their buy a year, get a year free deal. No regrets, sometimes some buzzing or an echo, but that is easily remedied by unplugging the box, and replugging it in.

    Plus I get every feature known to man, and then some, (press * 9-8 I think and get your customer service phone calls recorded for free!) . I may downgrade the service a bit after my free year, but I’m very happy with ViaTalk, Vonage just seemed like a total ripoff when I was shopping for Voip, like the AOL of Internet Phones. I laugh hysterically every time I see the cable company advertise their VOIP from *cough*$37.99*cough*a*cough*month!

  13. SuperJdynamite says:

    “Likewise if anyone had a Voice over IP service using tech thats close to or exactly like the Verizon patents, again it becomes invalid.”

    @bluegus32: What? Where do you get this idea? I don’t follow your logic.

    It’s called “prior art“.