September 25, 2007
Vonage Loses to Sprint Nextel
By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief
These are mighty difficult times for Vonage (News
), as the incumbent providers have ganged up against them and have decided to compete on patents as opposed to technology. A federal jury has ruled
that Vonage has to pay $69.5 million in damages to Sprint (News
) Nextel for using its patents. This is ultimately terrible news for consumers. I continue to be amazed at phone companies who say they have patents for VoIP
and related technologies yet haven’t rolled the technology out to customers. Or they have rolled it out half a decade after the technology was patented.
The reality of the situation is Vonage is a fantastic marketing company and not a technology company. Technology companies often file for and receive numerous patents. A broad patent portfolio is a shield against patent lawsuits.
So Vonage had limited patent protection and marketing that should have made all the telcos envious. This is quite an achievement and shaking up a century-old industry is something to be proud of.
What is sad, however, is how easy it is to wipe a company away using not technology or better customer service but instead a patent portfolio which was amassed when the government was admittedly giving away patents too freely. So the IP
communications market owes a great deal of gratitude to Vonage for what the company has accomplished. At the same time, we should be upset the company did not acquire the patents they needed to be a long-term success story. Sure, the game is not over, but it is looking a lot worse from where I am standing.
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