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?