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Sprint-Nextel vs. Vonage: First Bicker, Then Make Up?


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October 05, 2005

Sprint-Nextel vs. Vonage: First Bicker, Then Make Up?

Olga Kharif

I just got done reading a 13-page lawsuit, alleging that Vonage, providing popular VoIP services, infringed on telco Sprint-Nextel's patents. And I have to say that this is the tiniest, and the least detailed lawsuit I've ever seen.

Sprint, essentially, references names and numbers of seven patents that it owns. The patents pertain to everything from "broadband telecommunications systems" to "method, system and apparatus for telecommunications control." Yes, talk about vague. Nowhere in the lawsuit does Sprint explain exactly how Vonage infringes on its patents, which sound frightfully broad.

My conclusion: I wouldn't be surprised if Sprint is bickering with Vonage simply to get a better feel for the worth of Vonage's intellectual property portfolio -- and then to make up.

Jon Arnold, who heads up IP researcher J Arnold & Associates, believes that the lawsuit could be a prelude to Sprint-Nextel's buying Vonage, which is rumored to be considering a sale or an IPO.

After all, it's hard to imagine that Sprint-Nextel, though one of the most innovative wireless companies around, has patents, enforcement of which could shut Vonage down. VoIP guru Jeff Pulver thinks that Sprint's patent attorneys must have simply had a slow week (read his blog entry on this here).

Or, this could be the case of Sprint trying to lower Vonage's price tag. The lawsuit certainly could make it more difficult for Vonage to orchestrate a sale or an IPO. Uncertainty that comes with the lawsuit isn't likely to heighten investor interest, for sure.

What do you think?

05:25 PM

VOIP

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Sprint-Nextel vs. Vonage: First Bicker, Then Make Up?:

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Tracked on October 10, 2005 12:07 AM

I have vonage now tell me the reasons to change to nextel????

William Hawley

Posted by: William Hawley at October 6, 2005 03:03 AM

That's not the full lawsuit, it's some sort of brief or summary. I asked to see it, too, and they asked me if I wanted the short version or the long version. I opted for the 13-page short version.

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 09:34 AM

timing is very, very interesting in this lawsuit. Sprint is worried about T-Mobile+Comcast. They're slated to launch a hybrid cell phone with wifi+voip by end of year, and want a piece of the action.

Why do this? (from website)

Grow ARPU by significantly increasing mobile voice service usage

Lower CapEx and OpEx by offloading the macro cellular network from indoor mobile voice usage

Reduce churn by proving high-performance indoor mobile voice services

See http://www.kineto.com/

Posted by: Insider at October 6, 2005 11:07 PM

Take a look at MobilePro if you want to find an amazing Cinderella story in the wi-fi sector.

Posted by: Tedd at October 8, 2005 03:34 PM

the inventor of the patents listed here was not an sprint employee. interestingly his name does not appear as the inventor on any of the patents listed! i am sure soon both sprint & vonage will be hearing from him

Posted by: real inventor at October 31, 2005 10:13 PM


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