Sprint Nextel Charges Vonage, Others Infringed on VoIP Patents
By ROBERT LIU
TMCnet Wireless and Technology Columnist
Sprint Nextel Corp. is charging three well-known voice-over-IP (VoIP) service providers including industry darling Vonage with “willfully” infringing on seven patents related to voice packet technology, the cellular operator disclosed late Tuesday.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, names Vonage Holdings, Voiceglo Holdings and theglobe.com as defendants. Sprint Nextel is seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as an injunction that could prevent the three VoIP companies from further operations, if successful.
“Sprint has long been regarded as an industry leader in developing new technology to provide innovative telecommunications services to our customers. Among the innovations developed by Sprint employees is a portfolio of patents covering fundamental and pioneering technologies relating to voice over packet communications. While Sprint prefers to resolves disputes amicably, Sprint will take all necessary steps to protect the creativity and innovation of its employees,” Sprint Nextel spokesperson Debra Peterson told TMCnet.
According to the legal filing, the patents were issued between October 2001 and December 2003, to Joseph Michael Christie and named Sprint Communications Co., as the company was then known prior to the completion of its merger with Nextel Communications, as owner of record. A copy of the court filing was obtained by TMCnet and can be found at: http://images.tmcnet.com/usubmit/images/2005/oct/patent_case_doc.pdf
In an email exchange, Peterson explained that the patented Sprint Nextel technology involves “Method, System and Apparatus for Telecommunications Control” (U.S. Patent No. 6,304,572, U.S. Patent No. 6,633,561, U.S. Patent No. 6,463,052 and U.S. Patent No. 6,452,932) as well as “Broadband Telecommunications Systems” (U.S. Patent No. 6,473,429, U.S. Patent No. 6,298,064, U.S. Patent No. 6,665,294).
Specifically, the company wants to halt the companies from “further misappropriating Sprint Nextel's technology and infringing Sprint Nextel's patents.” In the suit, Sprint Nextel has charged that the defendants willfully and deliberately continued to infringe on the patents even after the dispute was brought to their attention.
“Sprint has suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable injury and damages in an amount not yet determined for which Sprint is entitled to relief,” the company alleged in its lawsuit.
A representative from Vonage said the company doesn't have any comment at this time.
Voiceglo and theglobe.com officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
The lawsuit could even complicate a proposed initial public offering that Vonage is reportedly pursuing.
Sprint's lawsuit isn't the first time Vonage has been involved in an infringement case. Vonage brought its own trademark infringement lawsuit against AT&T last year involving the VoIP-based service branded "CallVantage." That suit was subsequently settled out of court. Terms of the settlement weren't disclosed.
Robert Liu is Executive Editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was Executive Editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. For more articles, please visit Robert Liu's columnist page.
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