by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2008 1:09pm
In the last year, we've witnessed plenty of companies dig up VoIP patents with which to sue market innovator Vonage. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and Nortel all were able to get Vonage to cough up some money, rather than continue to fight some questionable patents. The fact that there are so many overlapping patents, is exactly the "patent thicket" problem that our current patent system encourages. Of course, there are always more patents to choose from, and it appears that Net2Phone has dug out an old patent and decided not to sue Vonage, but to go after Skype instead. Unfortunately, there's very little in the way of detail. The ZDNet post just claims it happened, but doesn't give any details about the actual lawsuit (even where it's been filed). Also, the writer seems amazed that it's based on a patent filed in 2000, even though it's common enough to see old patents used in patent lawsuits. In this case, it's absolutely true that Net2Phone was an early pioneer in the VoIP space, but saw its business eclipsed when it had trouble coming up with a product people actually wanted to use (and then watched as providers like Skype passed them by). If anything, this seems like yet another example of those who lost in the marketplace punishing those who innovated better. Skype came up with a good product that people wanted to use. Net2Phone did not. It's hard to see why Skype should be punished for doing a better job serving the market.
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