by Mike Masnick
Thu, Nov 8th 2007 8:02pm
The various patent lawsuits against Vonage have been a perfect example of almost everything that's wrong with the patent system. Vonage was the clear leader in this space -- being the first to successfully get this type of product to a widespread audience, even as the idea had been talked for years. Vonage's success had nothing to do with its technology acumen. The concepts behind VoIP services were widely known and widely discussed. The problem facing the space had always been an inability by any company to package it up in a way that people would buy it. Vonage figured that out. And for it, it got sued into oblivion by all the companies who were unable or unwilling to figure out. Just the fact that there were so many patents covering the basic concepts of "VoIP" (even when there was so much prior art) should have been a warning sign that perhaps most of those patents were bogus. However, once Vonage's investors started pressuring Vonage to just settle the cases, things only got worse. Vonage settled with Verizon and Sprint and even with some small patent holder very few people had heard of. With Vonage quickly trying to settle any such lawsuit, you can bet that plenty of companies went hunting through their patent portfolios, looking to see if they had anything related to VoIP which they could use to sue Vonage over. AT&T quickly found something and sued Vonage, knowing the company would quickly cough up some money. And, cough it up, it did. Vonage has agreed to pay AT&T $39 million. Anyone else have a VoIP patent? Might as well sue while Vonage's wallet is wide open...
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