One of the last companies to jump on the VoIP bandwagon is Verizon. Yet — our legal system allows larger companies with deep pockets who focus more on patents than providing users with new technology to easily sue new competitors into oblivion.
This is the case with Vonage — the company paying over a hundred million dollars for patent infringement to Verizon. Cable companies are another matter as they have large legal teams and deep enough pockets to defend themselves from patent suits which may or may not be frivolous.
Recently, a jury decided Cox Communications did not infringe Verizon patents. This is great news for Cox and regardless of who is right or wrong in a complex legal case like this, having a jury trial where six patents are in question and winning all six is surprising. One would have expected Cox to lose at least one.
A patent assault of this magnitude is a smart move on Verizon’s part — but they rolled the dice and lost. We haven’t heard the last of patent suits in IP communications — there are many more I coming. Hopefully this case will make companies who did not really invent any IP communications technology think twice before suing companies using it to the benefit of customers.
Really though the large telcos are the winners here and consumers are the losers. The US patent system continues to be a barrier to true innovation and consumers are being hurt — severely so in some cases — by large companies who use the patent system to prevent other companies from succeeding. Instead of competing with better technology alone, these large companies use large amounts of patents at once to scare new entrants into submission. Hopefully, in the IP communications space, Cox Communications will mark a point in time when large companies slow down their IP communications patent infringement onslaught.