Caritas/Comcast VoIP Patent Victory

The VoIP market won a victory in Texas yesterday with Comcast defending itself successfully against a $2.2 billion lawsuit brought on by Caritas Technologies. The company was formed by four men, including David Farber, who many consider the grandfather Internet, was awarded a series of VoIP-related patents. One, in particular, Caritas claimed could be read to include calls that were made partly using VoIP connections and partly across the PSTN. Essentially, Caritas was claiming to have invented to capability to connect calls running partially on the PSTN and partially on IP networks, explained Daralyn Durie, attorney at Keker & Van Nest, LLP, representing Comcast in the case.
In the suit, whereby Caritas sought to end the Comcast Digital Voice (CDV) VoIP service offering, Caritas alleged that CDV infringed on Caritas’ patent rights, and in a claim construction hearing on July 31, the main issue was the term, “telephone connection in a telephone network.” Comcast held that the patent owned by Caritas was intended as a way to set up conference calls on the PSTN, not a way to have actual voice signals transmitted over an IP network. Caritas, conversely, argued that their patent could be interpreted to cover these hybrid PSTN/VoIP calls.

The court subsequently issued a ruling in accordance with Comcast’s stance, asserting that the term, “telephone connection in a telephone network,” means a circuit-switched connection between telephones.

So we are entering a phase of the VoIP market where the technology has become successful enough to warrant more and more companies looking for a piece of the action. There are all sorts of angles to play here from patents to partnering. Remember the recent controversy about RTI suing Google over VoIP patents. The VoIP market although a fraction of the PSTN in terms of revenue is growing rapidly and there seems no doubt that all calls will eventually run over IP.

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