Virtual PBX Featured Article

Sprint Lands Big Cash After Virtual PBX Patent Battle

March 08, 2017

By Steve Anderson - Contributing Writer

Recently, Sprint took on no less than Time Warner Cable over an issue of virtual private branch exchange (PBX) tools, most notably voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) tools. After going to trial, with no less than a hometown jury, the results for Sprint turned out quite positive, and now Time Warner owes Sprint just shy of $140 million in damages connected to the virtual PBX tools.

More specifically, the virtual PBX tools in question were related to five specific patents that the jury in Kansas City—Sprint's hometown—found Time Warner violated, which resulted in damages of $139.8 million. The patents in question include number 6,343,084, which is related to a means to establish “...virtual connections through an ATM interworking multiplexer on a call-by-call basis,” as well as number 6,633,561, a telecommunications control method.

The remaining patents included number 6,463,052, which relates to a method “ which signaling is processed externally to a switch before it is applied by the network elements,” as well as number 6,473.429, which seems similar to number 6,343,084 and also relates to virtual connection through an ATM multiplexer. Finally, there was patent 6,298,064, related to a means by which signal processors receive calls and then select a necessary virtual connection system for the call.

The jury, having recently concluded deliberations, likewise concluded that Time Warner had indeed infringed on the patents in question, and thus assigned damages accordingly. Interestingly, Time Warner's parent company Charter did not immediately declare plans to file an appeal, instead saying through a spokesperson that it was “...disappointed with the outcome” and was “considering our options.”

It would have been one thing, had there been just one virtual PBX-related patent involved here, for Charter and Time Warner to not immediately express plans for appeals. Given that there were five patents involved, though, and all of them a jury found infringed upon, it may well be that Charter and Time Warner just consider the odds of getting anything reversed there too long to pursue. Naturally, I'm not a lawyer and this is conjecture but when there are five patents involved, and all five are found infringed on, it seems like convincing appellate authorities that the whole thing was a mistake would be difficult. Of course, that doesn't forbid Time Warner from looking into licensing and royalties, a point which would at least keep its product line in play.

Still, the case will bear watching for some time to come as Time Warner and Charter consider the next move. Whether that move ends up just being writing a check or not remains to be seen, but the virtual PBX field will likely be just a little thinner thanks to the removal of some infringing matter.

Edited by Maurice Nagle



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