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Vonage Barred From Using Verizon VoIP Patents

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the those-are-my-patents-do-not-touch-them dept.

Businesses 247

thefiremonk writes "Bloomberg reports that U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton has issued a permanent injunction against Vonage. The goal: to stop allowing customers to make calls to standard phone lines. 'U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton approved Verizon's request for a block today in Alexandria, Virginia. Hilton said he won't sign the order before a hearing in two weeks on Vonage's request for a stay. A jury found March 8 that Vonage infringed three patents and should pay Verizon $58 million.' Does this spell doom for the already troubled Vonage? "

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247 comments

Let's see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18461761)

If a phone company can't make phone calls, does that spell doom? Gee, maybe.

So Much For Customer Service (2, Insightful)

phinsxiii (1078585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461795)

Once again Big Business wins and the customer get screwed.


Isn't Democracy wonderful?

:)

Aren't all? (4, Insightful)

lenne (1050888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462111)

Aren't all voip companies doing more or less the same?

How many ways are there to connect voip to pstn?

Leif

Re:So Much For Customer Service (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462219)

How is that? Shouldn't the phone company be properly paid for the use of its network? One way or another this was going to happen, either the cost of data going over the network would go up or the cost of VoIP was going to go up.

Telephone carriers have a duty to make sufficient profits to do things like maintain the network. Vonage really should have to pay considering that they are currently using the carrier's own network to compete against them while only paying less to provide the service across multiple networks.

Additionally companies like vonage are not required to pay towards the universal service fund. Which goes to maintenance and paying for lines in areas where phone companies genuinely couldn't make a profit providing service.

Re:So Much For Customer Service (1)

GuyverDH (232921) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462239)

Really?

Does Verizon pay every ma and pa phone shop who's lines they use passing Cell Calls to land lines?

I highly doubt it.

Re:So Much For Customer Service (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462295)

Got anything to back that up or is that just conjecture? Where do you think that the money from the roaming charges goes?

Re:So Much For Customer Service (3, Interesting)

URSpider (242674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462789)

Really?

Does Verizon pay every ma and pa phone shop who's lines they use passing Cell Calls to land lines?

I highly doubt it.


Why do you doubt it? Of course they pay them. Check out this recent story [techdirt.com] on a company that was making millions off of these payments by redirecting incoming calls back out over VoIP, basically a form of bit-laundering.

And, it's "whose," not "who's."

Re:So Much For Customer Service (2, Insightful)

phinsxiii (1078585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462327)

Really?

What about the Billions of taxpayer dollars that the Bells received in the 90s to upgrade the infrastructure that they still haven't halfway finished? You remember fast access to every doorstep? Well that has only turned out to be limited to major metropolitan areas. I still can only get fast access to my doorstep through my cable company. Bellsouth has yet to provide DSL, and I live in a fairly large city.

No. This is pure greed. Vonage forced the Bells to reduce their pricing before they were ready to compete, so Verizon is just going to sue Vonage out of existence. Vonage was already in dire straits. They will not survive this legal battle and that is what the Bells wanted.

The Bells do have a right to make a profit, but not at the expense of the customer.

Re:So Much For Customer Service (1)

thaylin (555395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462425)

By that logic should verison not have to pay vonage for using vonages network? Should ATT not have to pay verison and so forth? Telephone carriers do not have a duty to make a profit to maintain the network, that would come out of the income way before profit is declared.

Re:So Much For Customer Service (1)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462441)

I think you are looking at two very different problems here. The cost of using the network is different from the technology to connect to a network. Presumably Vonage has to pay a connection fee for the physical connection to phone networks and this should cover usage cost of the network. As for connecting to the network, there are probably a fairly limited number of ways to interface with the phone network and anyone looking to connect would reach a similar configuration. For the Universal Service Fund, why not include that fee in the cost of the network usage fees for connecting to the phone network?

Jim

Re:So Much For Customer Service (2, Interesting)

antarctican (301636) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462431)

It is yet again another perfect example of how patents actually hinder innovation rather than spur it. A sad day.

I haven't been following this but I'm not curious to dig deeper to see what exactly these patents are. As in, is it as simple as a patent on network->land line calls? And if so, that's not only an overly broad patent, but could mean the doom for the entire coip industry. Or even open source projects such as Asterisk. I certainly hope this patent turns out to be some very specific technology, otherwise a booming and very useful technology will suddenly have the door slammed in it's face.

I guess that will be the question, is it a patent on a technology or... *shudder* an idea for a technology. An actual method for doing something should be patentable, but an idea like, "what if we hook a network to a phone line" should most certainly not be. And I would think there is prior art if the latter turns out to be the case.

well (3, Funny)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461803)

They better come up with a none-infringing way to send calls from the internet to a phone line. Maybe a speaker a phone and some duct tape?

Re:well (1)

Coldmoon (1010039) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462447)

Maybe a speaker a phone and some duct tape?
Anyone checked to see if the string implementation is covered by Copyright? Would hate to have the speaker phone duct tapped to my head without a line out to call for help...

Yet another reason for patent reform (5, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461805)

Actually, it's this kind of patent use (abuse) - restraint of trade - that should be forbidden. It should be prevented becuase of the monopoly and incumbent carrier status that Verizon holds on the wired telephone market.

They are not using the patents to forward the condition of man, but rather to choke off a competitor in an estabilshed industry with an (effectively) insurmountable cost of entry using traditional methods.

It's no surprise that Verizon is one of the top ten hated corporations.

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18461983)

Isn't that exactly what parents are? A way to grant a temporary monopoly to an individual or company?

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (2, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462017)

They are not using the patents to forward the condition of man
That's not the purpose of patents. Patents are used to encourage invention by limiting the ability of others to copy the inventor's work during a limited period.

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (4, Insightful)

Cerebus (10185) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462301)

Which part of "To promote the progress of science and useful arts" is unclear?

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462523)

i don't know where you've been but verizon has done one hell of a lot more in "the progress of science and useful arts" than vonage ever has. or are you saying that royalty free use of patents is ok as long as the company that's getting ripped off is bigger? or even worse yet, are you claiming that vonage has done something innovative outside of the house that verizon has already built?

i know if this were microsoft up to the same game as vonage we'd be hearing howls of how "it's not innovation, they're just robbing some other company that already laid the groundwork".

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (1)

radarjd (931774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462029)

Actually, it's this kind of patent use (abuse) - restraint of trade - that should be forbidden. It should be prevented becuase of the monopoly and incumbent carrier status that Verizon holds on the wired telephone market.

Are you saying that any use of a patent by Verizon should be barred? The problem with broad statements like that is that historically the government is not good at drawing those kinds of lines. How do you determine that a patent is being used "to forward the condition of man"? Is it only if it's given away for free? Is it only if the patented subject matter is new and non-obvious?

The patent office is supposed to determine just that. That it fails indicates a failure in the patent office, and not a failure of the law.

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462783)

Absolutely not. Verizon can have all the patents they want, they just can't use them as a way to prevent another carrier from offering a competing service to their monopoly service.

Personally, I don't think Macrovision should be allowed to enforce patents on the decoding of their protection schemes, as they are using them solely for restraint of trade and have no intent to produce commercial products with them.

I equate this to an automotive company having a patent on the use of gasoline for engines. Or Comcast having a patent for video delivery using baseband analog video signal (wouldn't that fuck up the last meter connection for most of Verizon's IPTV offerings).

I'm not saying that its feasible to do so in the current patent scheme, just that this is not the intent of patent law. Patents are meant to promote progress, not restraint of trade.

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (1)

DaWorm666 (553934) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462903)

Absolutely not. Verizon can have all the patents they want, they just can't use them as a way to prevent another carrier from offering a competing service to their monopoly service.They aren't saying they can't use the patented technology, they are saying that they must pay for a license to use it. Big difference.

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (2, Interesting)

Kenja (541830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462183)

OK.... so how big (in your opinion) does a company have to be before they should be forced to give away their research and Ip to competing companies?

Not saying I agree with the situation, but the problem is not Verizon enforcing their patents but the patent process itself.

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (1)

madirad (163824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462769)


> It's no surprise that Verizon is one of the top ten hated corporations.

Is this literally true? I haven't been able to find any such list.

Re:Yet another reason for patent reform (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18463047)

Well slashdot hasn't duped this yet [slashdot.org] , so I can understand how you missed it. Actually, it looks like a small-sample poll (100,000 votes), but they did manange to rank up there with the worst.

Guess I need to look at the Comcast bundle (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461811)

I like Vonage, but it sounds like this could kill them.

Re:Guess I need to look at the Comcast bundle (1)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462057)

That quote is from Les Nessman, not Arthur Carlson.

Re:Guess I need to look at the Comcast bundle (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462351)

We need a "-1 wrong" mod.

The quote is, indeed, said by Arthur Carlson. After all, it was HIS idea to drop the turkeys from the chopper.

Re:Guess I need to look at the Comcast bundle (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462487)

Less Nessman's part in the best TV episode ever were the phrases "They're dropping like bags of wet cement!" and "Oh, the Humanity!"

And yes, I know the last one was from the Hindenburg disaster, and I'm sure the writers did as well. That's why it's funny.

Verizon - Patent Terrorists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18461813)

No other way to describe the company.

If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

chevman (786211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461819)

For all us Vonage subscribers, what VOIP company should we think about switching to if Vonage goes under?

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18461887)

I certainly won't be signing up with FIOS if Verizon kills Vonage. And I will certainly be in every city council meeting regarding FIOS and building permits bringing up the case the Verizon is abusing its irrelevant patents to stamp out competition and that the city (in my case, Tampa/Temple Terrace, Florida) doesn't want to submit to yet another massive monopoly.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (2, Insightful)

wizbit (122290) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462087)

I have Vonage, and this story obviously worries me quite a bit. But your point about Verizon misses the mark for its other services - Verizon are also providing competition in other areas (eg, cable TV). Comcast is the undisputed king in my area (Philly) but I am seriously considering switching to Verizon's TV service after seeing their lineup and pricing. Not to mention, I don't have many options here (no view of the southern sky = no satellite TV) and I'm tired of giving my money to the local monopoly - on TV, at least. But I agree in principle that this kind of anticompetitive behavior really doesn't serve anyone, and it's yet another example of patent law abuse that screws the average consumer.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

PaulMorel (962396) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462361)

Comcast employs thousands of people in Philadelphia (their headquarters) and Pittsburgh. As a Pittsburgh resident, I feel like it's my social responsibility to buy cable from Comcast.

Also, Verizon has dicked me around more times than I could possibly recount in this post.

As per the article, I, for one, think that this is a case of patent abuse.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

wizbit (122290) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462751)

Verizon also employs plenty of people in the region. Bell Atlantic's headquarters was in Philadelphia practically from birth until the merger (90's?)

My major beefs with Comcast:
- Constant rate hikes
- Local monopoly on home sports coverage
- Channels disappearing from their analog lineup
- Pretty steep internet and phone rates

My experience with Verizon:
- Decent service
- Cheaper internet

There was a recent /. article describing the installation for their FIOS TV service, and it blew me away. Tech spending hours at your house on a weekend evening? All Comcast ever did was punch a hole through my wall, test cables from outside and plug in the digital box. (Thanks.)

Really, I don't see the downside of some competition in the TV area and I'll happily cancel my service with Comcast when they offer the FIOS TV service.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18461935)

For all us Vonage subscribers, what VOIP company should we think about switching to if Vonage goes under?


Will it matter? Don't you think that Vonage is just first in the barrel?

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461937)

Cable companies are offering great bundles on their digital phone service bundled with high-speed Internet and digital cable. Comcast and Bright House Networks both offer service that competes with Vonage on price, but not on features. If I had to jump ship, that's where I'd go.

(Disclosure: I've been a Vonage customer for more than 2 years, but I did turn down the IPO.)

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

jtn (6204) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462001)

Comcast and Bright House both have deeper pockets than Vonage, however, do you think they would be able to withstand Verizon's lawyers? Assuming the patents involved are infringed upon in a way the jury assumed in the Vonage case...

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462081)

Brighthouse certainly doesn't compete on price OR features. I pay about $30.15 a month with Vonage for unlimited nationwide (and some other countries that I don't care about). Bright House, for Tampa, is $39.95 *plus* fees, which according to a BHN rep, are about $8/month on $40, or around $48/month. You can get "Florida-wide" coverage for $11 less, but you have to pay another $4 for simple voice mail. Bright house, according to reps, doesn't allow simultaneous rings, e-mailed voicemail messages. According to a friend, the BHN system doesn't play nice unless you use the BHN home router package (which is free, but crap, compared to regular consumer-grade routers).

Hardly something that I'd like to "upgrade" to. I hate giving Bright House what I already give them, let alone even more...

And, on the Florida-calling only plan, its 5/minute for outside of Florida.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462357)

Time Warner's service is expensive, and certainly no better. I switched a year-and-a-half ago to SunRocket because Vonage was too expensive at $25.00 per month. With SunRocket at $200.00 per year I can put up with the issues I've had with them.

However, if this crap continues, I'll probably buy a Skype peripheral and wire in that way.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

dabraun (626287) | more than 7 years ago | (#18463073)

I pay Vonage $15/mo for phone service. There's no way that Comcast competes with this on price.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (5, Interesting)

jtn (6204) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461961)

You realize, of course, if Vonage is unsuccessful in having a stay granted and cannot develop a technical work around and thus departs from the marketplace, Verizon will become emboldened to press lawsuits against other voice providers using VoIP-to-PSTN gateway technologies? Goodbye Packet8, goodbye Broadvoice, goodbye VoicePulse...

It would seem the only solution in the end is to entirely bypass the legacy PSTN system and encourage the people you call to switch to a VoIP solution so no calls are terminated by Verizon.

Verizon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18461977)

They can't sue themselves... or can they?

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462037)

AT&T CallVantage?

It would seem that AT&T would by their very nature be licensed to use these patents under some cross-licensing deal that surely exists between Verizon and AT&T. If not, I'm sure AT&T has enough patents that should Verizon get uppity and go after them AT&T could cause them sufficient pain to work out a deal.

I've had CallVantage service for over two years, and despite the annoying changes brought about by E911, my call quality has always been excellent and I am generally a happy customer. My only complaints: e911 hassles and the devices are locked down so you can't use them with other providers or asterisk, though I've seen some information on the net about how to unlock them.

I'm using the linksys TA without wireless. Avoid the wireless TA - it's crap! The wired only version is great. Plus it stacks neatly between the linksys cable modem and my wrt54g. :) I've heard bad things about the dlink ta (don't even know if they still make them - i haven't looked at hardware options for 2 years and I have a spare linksys TA in case mine ever dies).

I haven't looked into connecting asterisk to them yet, but I'm sure it's not "supported." One day I'll have time to look into it.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (1)

mcappel (776700) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462099)

Been using SunRocket for two years now with no complaints about SunRocket per se. Comcast, our high-speed ISP, is less than reliable.

Have no idea if Verizon's patents apply to SunRocket.

Re:If Not Vonage, Then Who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462581)

I'm using Skype now for International calls and T-Mobile family plan for everything else.
I got rid of Vonage a few months ago after being "their loyal" customer for more than a year.

No regret so far.

Juries (4, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461845)

This is what happens when you have technical cases decided by 12 ordinary citizens too stupid to get out of jury duty. It's why IBM doesn't want the SCO case to go to trial without a finding from the judge that it didn't infringe on any of SCO's copyrights. (If the summary judgement is granted and it does go to trial, the jury has to proceed on the idea that IBM hasn't violated any of SCO's IP.)

Verizon is just suing to keep Vonage -- and every other company offering a similar service -- from making it irrelevant in the home phone market. Which is exactly what's happening.

Re:Juries (2, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462069)

This is what happens when you have technical cases decided by 12 ordinary citizens too stupid to get out of jury duty.
I'm with you, dude. Voting is stupid too! Look at those idiots standing in line on election day! Better off playing WoW.

Re:Juries (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462181)

And that is the problem. The smart people get out of it and thus there is no justice. People bitch and bitch about juries doing dumb things, and then when they get called? They will do ANYTHING to get out of it rather than do a better job.

Re:Juries (1)

russ_allegro (444120) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462673)

>And that is the problem. The smart people get out of it and thus there is no justice. People bitch and bitch about juries doing dumb things, and then when they get called? They will do ANYTHING to get out of it rather than do a better job.

If they didn't get out of it people will think they are not smart because they were not able to get out of it.

We have an employee who was unable to get out of jury duty. That employee must not be smart, because smart people get out of jury duty. Why did we hire this person if s/he is not smart?

Your own statement promotes the idea that only stupid people do jury duty, so what do you expect?

Re:Juries (1)

Marillion (33728) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462329)

1) There is no indication that a jury was involved. Trial by Jury is a right. It is not compulsory. Many corporate court battles take place without a jury because it reduces the risks associated with jurries

2) What the F***? 12 ordinary citizens too stupid to get out of jury duty? Some of us are happy to serve and protect your right to trial by jury. The next time a Big Media legal thug drags your ass into a court room, you should be happy that a "smart person" who supports the right of trial by jury might actually decide in your favor.

Re:Juries (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462859)

1) There is no indication that a jury was involved. Trial by Jury is a right. It is not compulsory. Many corporate court battles take place without a jury because it reduces the risks associated with jurries


FTFA:

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton approved Verizon's request for a block today in Alexandria, Virginia. Hilton said he won't sign the order before a hearing in two weeks on Vonage's request for a stay. A jury found March 8 that Vonage infringed three patents and should pay Verizon $58 million.


BTW -- The right to trial by jury extends to criminal cases. This is a civil corporate litigation case, not a criminal case.

Re:Juries (1)

SixFactor (1052912) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462379)

...technical cases decided by 12 ordinary citizens too stupid to get out of jury duty.

Perhaps this is why juries are the way they are. The "smart" people shirked their duty to serve, and thus could not affect the outcome of the trial. And Slashdot readers being as smart as they are, now complain about said outcome.

What would be more telling than this judgement is whatever (if any) patent expert opinion was offered at trial. If Vonage's counsel could not present a valid and comprehensible (remember, we're talking about a "stupid" jury here) expert argument on the alleged patent infringements, then this result should not be surprising.

Re:Juries (1)

Yold (473518) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462443)

"Verizon is just suing to keep Vonage -- and every other company offering a similar service -- from making it irrelevant in the home phone market. Which is exactly what's happening."

Verizon, even with all its millions of dollars of legal muscle, cannot stop VOIP from eventually biting into its business in home phone. Vonage may fail, but someone else will succeed because it is cheaper and easily implemented. With the competitive pricing of cellular phone service vs. land-lines, and the fact VOIP is replacing PBXs at the corperate level, it is only a matter of time until VOIP is a 100% transparent alternative to land lines.

My predcition, within the next 20 years, all data going into and coming out of your home will be done w/ IP . This is why television networks are testing online viewing of their shows.
The physical connection for your television, cable, and of course internet will be from one large local monopoly (think cable company). But the individual services will be independent for television, phone, gaming (Xbox Live, etc). Specialization is the key to sucess in the business world, and large telecom companies w/ tons of services will eventually be a thing of the past.

Re:Juries (0)

Murmer (96505) | more than 7 years ago | (#18463065)

I imagine you consider yourself to be a smart person; so, your argument is that we need "smarter" rulings? Perhaps not made by people "too stupid to get out of jury duty". Maybe it's idealistic of me, but perhaps if more supposedly smart people held less spent less time weaseling out of what is ostensibly their civic duty, you'd get your wish.

What's the infringement? (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461853)

The aritcle is decidely non-technical, beyond saying the infringement was over "a technology," and "a method for allowing Internet calls to reach traditional phone lines." Anyone have any real details on what's being fought over?

Re:What's the infringement? (5, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462145)

Here's the original 7 patents [ipurbia.com] ... #6,430,275, #6,137,869, #6,104,711, #6,282,574, #6,128,304, #6,298,062, and #6,359,880.

It sounds like #6,430,275 (tiff [uspto.gov] , pdf [pat2pdf.org] , text/png [google.com] ) is the one that's the VOIP/POTS bit.

Re:What's the infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462585)

So this was filed back in '99. I remember working a billing system (sold by a commercial vendoi) that provided that type of functionality before the date of filing. Ok, maybe we didn't configure it exactly that way, but we could have. Basically they patented a real time billing system for phone systems. This invention seems to logical. Oh well, yet another patent that stops innovation.

So Long OSS VOIP (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462625)

As someone that has been working hard to develop some competency with VOIP serving, it seems that anyone trying to do anything with http://www.openser.org/ [openser.org] without voicemail or POTS services is royally screwed.

You can't touch it.

This one deserves a headline at http://www.chillingeffects.org/ [chillingeffects.org] .

Anyone have any ideas as to how one can operate a VOIP server for free and still pay the bandwidth bill each month? I'm serious, I'm open to anything

Re:What's the infringement? (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462821)

Can someone just club the USPTO collectively to death for that one? What Vonage is doing is no different from the mobile phone companies are freaking doing with Cell service terminiation- and I can assure you they're not paying royalties for that process
nor is it something I'd consider patentable, really. Doing something counterintuitive that works better? That MIGHT be something
someone could make a case for patenting, even in software, but this? AAAAARGH!

"One smart decision among many, many stupid ones." (4, Funny)

mmell (832646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461941)

I thought that was just Vonage's marketing hype, not their business model!

Yep. (4, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461945)

If the order isn't stayed pending appeal, Vonage is dead; revenue drops to zero nearly overnight. So are all other independent VoIP providers, when Verizon gets around to crushing them.

A concrete manifestation of a patent system out of control.

Re:Yep. (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462359)

There are companies with bigger pockets who make money off of connecting VoIP calls to the legacy voice network (eg. Comcast, Time Warner, in combination with their cablemodem service), and presumably they're concerned about the patent. Is it ever the case that a larger company provides legal assistance to a smaller company in cases like this? Or would Verizon never go after Comcast/Time Warner if they think they'd lose, and therefore it's actually in Comcast/TimeWarner's best interests to stand back and let Verizon knock out the smaller guys so they can take the rest of the VoIP market?

Re:Yep. (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462761)

So are all other independent VoIP providers, when Verizon gets around to crushing them.

But Verizon won't... they won't have to. By picking on the popular kid, that will make the less popular kids fall into line and pay Verizon some cash for their transgressions rather than be bled to death by lawsuits. This kind of nonsense will only stop if Verizon decides to take on Comcast or Optimum Online.

Re:Yep. (1)

cpu_fusion (705735) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462803)

> A concrete manifestation of a patent system out of control.

Funny, I would have called it "extortion." But then I'm not a lawyer (yet).

Hopefully they are forced out of business (5, Interesting)

mulvane (692631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461949)

Down with Vonage!! I had the service for 11 months. First 3 months was great, but then nothing but trouble after I deployed to the Gulf for 6 months. My wife tried to call them repeatedly to have it fixed and they kept blaming my ISP which after I got home I ruled out as it happened on my COMCAST, neighbors ATT, and Clearwire in local area. I could see one ISP being the problem, but not 3, and after I called again they said I wasn't qualified to make such assumptions. Funny, I can sure manage to make UHF/VHF, and SAT links and manage the LAN on a US Guided Missile Cruiser, but I wasn't technically smart enough to call the bullshit flag on the blame they focused on my ISP. Further, when the 10 month mark rolled around, I had military orders requiring me to move and at the time it was to a place I wouldn't have broadband, or hell, access at all, and they tried to pressure me into keeping the service and singing another year anyway. They just didn't get the fact that small islands sometimes don't have access. Then, they argued with me about how I owed them an early cancellation fee even though I was also canceling due to shitty service THEY couldn't fix. I had to end up also telling them a lie that I was not married, and I had no family who could make use of the account before they would close it. I had read horror stories at the time about people who had went over the 12 month period already and Vonage had refused to cancel the account, or had verbally said they would and the charges kept coming. I feared this so I even canceled the card. And low and behold, I started getting statements from my bank who issued a new card telling me about the activity that they were refusing.

I think you're at fault here. (2, Funny)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462067)

You must have called the AOL customer service line by mistake.

Re:I think you're at fault here. (1)

mulvane (692631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462125)

In the 18 years I have been around the net, I can honestly admit to being AOL free..I did have a prodigy account at one time though.

Re:Hopefully they are forced out of business (2, Interesting)

dattaway (3088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462553)

For me, Vonage had a good service, but they were too aggressive. I also had a well documented case against Vonage. Their service was good in my case, but cancelling was a problem that lasted a year. I quickly learned their customer service were script junkies who didn't have an option for "cancel." I may have been a test case for them to see how far people would take it. I ended up giving my card company a statement and a dispute. Then I called Vonage once again and it got into a long shouting match with many people. One of their representatives made a big mistake. She mentioned a fact I stated "wasn't in the notes." That's when I demanded my request to be cancelled by included (they apparently never had a request from me documented yet.) I kept referring to their notes after that. Finally, I got to get into an assertive discussion with one of their guys who was well versed in procedure. He reluctantly refunded my money for the year of service I didn't use. I gave them my new credit card account and gave my card company an updated statement. In the next few months, Vonage credited my account numerous times. I'm not sure they knew what they were doing. No copies of their notes were ever copied for my records, even though I demanded it numerous times.

A person almost needs a lawyer to cancel from Vonage these days. Apparently, dealing with ANY telephone provider is getting this bad. There needs to be some laws to protect the consumer, otherwise the telephone industry may lose trust.

May? MAY!?! (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462911)

Heh... I think they've mostly lost trust already- we just don't have alternatives in hand yet...

These patents can't be valid (4, Interesting)

spectro (80839) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461967)

"A method of translating calls between the Internet and standard phones, call-waiting features and wireless handsets"

- So they have a patent on transcoding from/to VoIP?, there's got to be some prior art on that
- Call waiting?... are you kidding me?
- Wireless handsets?, how does vonage infringe that?, VoIP got nothing to do with wireless handsets.

Vonage needs to hire themselves some real lawyers, Boies seems pretty good at dragging lawsuits forever.

Re:These patents can't be valid (2, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462049)

Remember, for the purpose of demonstrating prior art, the prior art has to be pretty much exactly the patented invention. However, for the purpose of demonstrating infringement, the alleged infringer's product just has to be close. This is a ridiculous state of affairs.

Skype (2, Interesting)

rebmemeR (1056120) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461975)

How could this affect Skype?

Re:Skype (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462401)

It will just affect Americans. Americans will be in the 6th century while the rest of the world enjoys progress and technology. Good luck with your wav files, crippling non-free software, and no internet phone.

Vonage's official response (5, Informative)

rGauntlet (54921) | more than 7 years ago | (#18461999)

Via a Press Release on their site: http://pr.vonage.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=2 35198 [vonage.com]

One interesting tidbit:

"We are confident Vonage customers will not experience service interruptions or other changes as a result of this litigation," said Mike Snyder, Vonage's chief executive officer.
.
.
"Our appeal centers on erroneous patent claim construction, and we remain confident that Vonage has not infringed on any of Verizon's patents - a position we will continue to vigorously assert in federal appeals court," said Sharon O'Leary, Vonage's executive vice president, chief legal officer and secretary. "Vonage relied on open-standard, off-the-shelf technology when developing its service. In fact, evidence introduced in court failed to prove that Vonage relied on Verizon's VoIP technology, and instead showed that in 2003 Verizon began exploring ways to copy Vonage's technology," she added.

I'm still hedging my bets (2, Funny)

ElForesto (763160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462613)

And this press release is NOT going to keep me from looking at transferring my phone service Real Soon Now(TM) to another provider. As much as I like Vonage, I'm not going to ride this roller coaster of not knowing if or when my phone service will go off thanks to a company I've never done business with.

Is the injunction legal? (5, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462025)

Seeing as how Vonage is required by law to connect callers to traditional 911 call centers (over standard phone copper) is the injunction, baring Vanage from connecting VoIP calls to POTS calls legal if it prevents those calls?

-Rick

Re:Is the injunction legal? (4, Informative)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462839)

There are many technical details why I think the injunction was granted but a stay will also be issued. You point out one very good one just because millions currently use VoIP. There also would be catastrophic damage done to Vonage if the stay was granted but minimal damage to Verizon (and what damage could be recouped) if the stay was granted but later lifted.

So when do they sue AT&T? (1)

xarius76 (826419) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462091)

While the article is indeed lacking technical details, the vague refrences to infringing on usage of voicemail and call-waiting really shows how desperate they are to crush vonage and anyone else in the VoIP services market. Features such as this are in use by every other telco, both small and large, on the planet. While I also despise vonage for both their quality and customer service, it's only a matter of time before they start picking on the smaller guys offering identical services, whether it be some type of Asterisk based system, or even Cisco's CallManager platform. AT&T offers call waiting and voicemail as well, so when are they going to get sued for infringement? There needs to be some serious facts released as to exactly what patents Vonage is infringing on.

Fun fact: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462159)

Did you know that 40% of District Court litigation is reversed by the Federal Circuit on appeal?

Not saying that what happened isn't significant (for one thing, Vonage may be denied an appeal), but it may be too early to shout doom.

Stupid question here... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462173)

aren't the carriers required to provide access to 911, regardless?

Anyway - nothing will actually stop any off-shore our out-of-country IP phone services unless that kind of services are blocked in the broadband network, and that may also prove both inefficient and causing a stir.

A secondary problem that I have seen is that a majority of all VoIP to analog boxes are bound to a service provider. That actually limits the development of VoIP today since the users aren't able to change operator unless they buy a new box.

Re:Stupid question here... (1)

dabraun (626287) | more than 7 years ago | (#18463019)

That said, the boxes are cheap ($50), far less expensive than the new cell phone often needed to switch wireless providers. It's not much of a barrier.

Just a thought (2, Insightful)

Cauchy (61097) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462187)

Have any of us bothered to look at the patents? Are they good and valid? Did Verizon truly invent something, and thus, perhaps, because of their investment, deserve some level of protection against theft in exchange for them contributing to the overall body of knowledge? Perhaps these patents are bogus, but I haven't seen anyone in this discussion yet attack Verizon/the PTO on the merits of the patents.

I agree that the patent system is broken, but, as I've said before, patents are more important to the little guy than the big guy. Without patents, if I as a little person invent something, there is nothing to stop Microsoft or IBM or some GE from copying my invention. Then, it just becomes a matter of who can out market who, and the little guy will lose this battle.

Re:Just a thought (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462319)

I had a primitive voip-pots gateway back in oh... 95 or so, hacked with speak-freely and some
old soundcard hardware. Worked pretty good too !

j.

Re:Just a thought (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462479)

You actually want people to read the patents? You want Groklaw. This is Slashdot.

Re:Just a thought (2, Informative)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462825)

Have any of us bothered to look at the patents? Are they good and valid? Did Verizon truly invent something, and thus, perhaps, because of their investment, deserve some level of protection against theft in exchange for them contributing to the overall body of knowledge? Perhaps these patents are bogus, but I haven't seen anyone in this discussion yet attack Verizon/the PTO on the merits of the patents.

By "us", do you mean the kids and geeks who read Slashdot, as opposed to the professional patent attorneys that work for Verizon and Vonage? Do you really think that it matters what a bunch of unqualified regular people who happen to read a geek blog think?

Considering... (2, Informative)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18463033)

...that I've seen the quality of "professional" IP counsel up close, I can tell you that many of them
aren't any better at it than we are, believe it or not. I've got one of the better lawyers in the field
as my patent attorney, and he's razor sharp and what meets your apparent picture of them. The previous
joker, also a lawyer at the Law Firm we retained, heh... Many, VERY many of them only pretend to know
what is and isn't viable or not. If I were Vonage, I'd have fired their litigators and got better ones.

The patents are pretty much rubbish in the first place and were largely rubber-stamped into existence.

Re:Just a thought (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462949)

They're intrinsically garbage, tying "internet" to something that's prior art and basically done for
mobile services already.

Dumb question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462247)

ZONK: Stop putting idiotic question at the end of each story post. Like we are not gonna comment if you don't stick the moronic question mark at the end.

assholes (1)

An0maly (448481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462439)

i prepaid for a full year a few months back because i actually get decent service from vonage. what i'm not sure of is what the hell they intended to accomplish by being the ones that squish vonage...being the asshole doesn't really attract a large customer base.

WWOT FP... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462473)

than a fraction [tuxedo.org], which gathers task. Research Prefeerably with an

Transition to Verizon? (1)

LoadStar (532607) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462643)

The primary thing I care about is uninterrupted service, at my current service and price level, with my current telephone number.

If Verizon intends to squish Vonage, they had better be completely prepared to seamlessly transition me to their service, at my current price and service level. If they are willing and able to do that, I'm OK with it. (Well, I'm not thrilled with this abuse of patent law, but I can't do much about that myself.)

Is there anyway I can contact the court system and have them consider this as a term in the injunction order?

Patent seems too obvious (1)

Cyphertube (62291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462755)

I hate Verizon to begin with for SO many reasons. So I'll put that up front.

That said, reading through the patent and the claims, it doesn't really look like anything all that original. The concept of translating POTS to IP to POTS had already existed by 1999. As far as I recall, Sprint, MCI, UUNet, and such were already engaged in that, as was good old AT&T. As for a public subscriber system, no, but internally I do believe they already had that tech in place.

Additionally, Verizon envisioned a PC using software, not a hardware device that needs no PC. Again, from the software (which I remember using a lot of voice chat back then when it first came out), there isn't really any technological improvement.

To me, it's like trying to patent peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Peanut butter is there, and jelly is there, and the bread is there, and it's a natural progression, but it's like, well, we were the first to throw it on paper and file, and it's ridiculous.

There is no actual INVENTION by Verizon in this patent, but simply a PROGRESSION or MERGING of then current technology.

The Linksys boxes that provide service for Vonage, AT&T, and more are beyond Verizon's vision at that point. If I were to say that Vonage had to change anything, it would be software on the PC to make calls, and possibly minute billing.

Follow up to the actual patents - judge's wording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18462767)

And to follow up on the patents here's what the judge said

"Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Claude M. Hilton :
Jury Trial cont'd on 3/8/2007. Appearances as previous. Jury question
rec'd 3/7/07 addressed w/counsel. Jury reinstructed re: name
translation and given the definition of 'method comprising'. The jury
returned to the jury room to continue deliberations. The jury returned
to the courtroom at 2:50 w/a verdict finding infringement of claim 27
of the '574 patent, claim 20 of the '711 patent and Claims 1, 6, 7,
and 8 of the '880 patent and finding that the infringement was not
willful. The jury did not find infringement of claims 1 & 2 of the
'869 patent and Claims 1 & 2 of the '275 patent. The jury found none
of the claims at issue in patents '574, '711, '869, '275, or '880 to
be invalid. The jury awarded pltfs damages in the amount of
$58,000,000.00 and found the reasonable royalty percentage to be 5.5%.
Judgment to be entered in accordance with the verdict. Pltfs motion
for Permanent Injunction to heard on 3/23/07 @ 10:00. (Court Reporter
Linnell.) (tarm, ) (Entered: 03/08/2007)"

Some fucking geeks you people are, can't even find a fucking patent
at the USPTO.... Fucking losers....

Patent 6430275 (2, Informative)

Dan Stephans II (693520) | more than 7 years ago | (#18462835)

I quickly read through the patent that appears to be at issue here (6430275) and I don't think it's purely the connection from a VOIP connection to a PSTN/POTS line (although that's covered I don't think it passes muster from a non-obviousness/prior art standpoint). The meat of this patent deals with call tracking and billing (starting at around page 5) and to me it stands out as the most reasonable area to pursue vonage. I could be wrong too. =) Nothing in the application struck me as terribly original.
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