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

Posted by: Olga Kharif on October 05, 2005

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?

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Reader Comments

William Hawley

October 6, 2005 03:03 AM

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

William Hawley


October 6, 2005 09:34 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.


October 6, 2005 11:07 PM

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



October 8, 2005 03:34 PM

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

real inventor

October 31, 2005 10:13 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


September 25, 2007 04:38 PM

Um. I'll be the vaguest person in the world, if it awards me 69.5 million!!

Jason Torrey

September 25, 2007 08:32 PM

Where can I read the original 13 page lawsuit? I want to see what patents (the patent numbers) Sprint is claiming are being infringed upon.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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