The net seems pretty sanguine regarding Verizon Communication’s recent jury victory over Vonage, but this may be a bit of a “it will never happen to me attitude”. Regardless of one’s feelings about Vonage, this might not be a good sign for VoIP at large and other VoIP companies in particular. Next time it might not be the VoIP provider we all love to hate – it might be our VoIP provider.
Vonage represents the proverbial deep pockets in this case, the only company worth going after, or at least the best place to start. Now the question is, will Verizon proceed to use its patent portfolio to systematically take out additional VoIP players? And if so, who will be next? On what grounds? And Vonage is still facing additional patent litigation with Sprint Nextel and Klausner Technologies. According to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, there are 2,273 patents related to VoIP. Rest assured that the telcos own many of them.
Some experts doubt the jury decision would have much impact on other VoIP firms. Vonage themselves say the claims are so broad they even apply to widely used industry standards.
Vonage has claimed it can produce a non-infringing workaround. If that’s true, it would be good for the industry because it would show that one can offer VoIP without stepping on these particular patents.
Instead of smugly thinking “the bastards got what they deserve” perhaps we ought to be spending a little more time reviewing the actual nature of these patents (and wondering how in the world a jury could digest them and reach a verdict in a single day).