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Vonage Admits They Have No Workaround 345

Posted by Zonk
from the i-hear-violins dept.
drachenfyre writes "It looks like Vonage has no workaround for their recent patent infringements. This means if a permanent stay isn't granted it is likely that it will be the end of the line for Vonage. What will happen if millions of phone customers suddenly lose their service? Their own filing to the court stated 'While Vonage has studied methods for designing around the patents, removal of the allegedly infringing technology, if even feasible, could take many months to fully study and implement.'"
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Vonage Admits They Have No Workaround

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  • stalemate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yada21 (1042762) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @11:26AM (#18767977)
    Welcome to the patent quagmire. The whole progress of industry will become a stalemate if this goes on.

    End the patent nonesense now!
    • Re:stalemate (Score:5, Insightful)

      by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:17PM (#18768395)
      End the patent nonesense now!

      There really needs to be a distinction made in this discussion between frivolous patents, patent trolls and legitimate patents.

      I don't think Verizon is a patent troll, although their patent could still be frivolous and honestly, I don't know whether this is.

      But the whole point of patents is to encourage innovation, by providing protection for unique ideas. Why would anybody bother coming up with new ideas if anybody else could just copy them the next day? (That's especially true for startups, which don't have the money to compete head to head with larger, more established companies.)

      If this is a legitimate patent, then Verizon was right to enforce it, and it will only help innovation in the long run, by continuing the legal tradition of protecting new ideas. And the court decisions suggest that it was a legitimate patent.
      • Re:stalemate (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:24PM (#18768511)
        Verizon is a patent troll, at least in this case. They waited far too long, in my opinion, to file suit against Vonage. You should not be able to selectively enforce your patent and only target those you feel confident or have financial motivation to target. The patents are very broad, Vonage is certainly not the only infringer. Why hasn't Verizon filed suit against others?
        • Re:stalemate (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ciscoguy01 (635963) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:46PM (#18768917)
          Congress needs to address the problem with broad software patents once and for all.

          Most of these software patents the clueless patent examiner lawyers at USPTO are granting are obvious and stupid.
          Things that have *always* been done that way by *lots* of people are now patented property, since the patent examiners hardly have the experience and knowledge to tell the difference between the obvious and something actually unique.

          Software patents should be either eliminated completely, or should be strictly limited, like a 1 year term and very easy to bring forward information (prior art) to cancel them.

          This is absolutely ridiculous. Verizon basically patented an extension of DNS. Mapping addresses to phone numbers? Puleeze. We did that in a database in 1977.

          I should have patented it then. Heh.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Hrvat (307784)
            Well, I'm sure many would be willing to join USPTO as patent examiners but for one thing: the pay. People who have the skills to examine these patents and to investigate prior art etc. are deterred by the dismal pay USPTO is offering: salary starts at less than a half of what software developers with measly 3-7 years experience are offered around DC these days, and the ceiling is definitively way under what someone qualified could make in the private sector or even as a contractor for the government.
      • Re:stalemate (Score:4, Insightful)

        by walt-sjc (145127) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:28PM (#18768573)
        Of COURSE they are a patent troll - the patents are obvious to anyone in the field. The patent office is granting anything that is an old idea applied to the internet and calling it new. Until they stop this, the madness will continue.

        Verizon is simply using this technology to maintain their defacto monopoly. This is not about innovation - it's about crushing a competitor or competing technology.

        Vonage is not alone. If this case holds, it will effectively destroy VoIP.
        • by walt-sjc (145127)
          Argh. Please substitute "patent" for "technology" in the first sentence of the second paragraph.
      • Re:stalemate (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eln (21727) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:29PM (#18768599) Homepage
        Maybe Verizon's patent is a good one, but it's still pretty sleazy the way they did this. They basically let Vonage exist for years, let Vonage spend all the money marketing the VoIP concept to the masses, let Vonage spend all the time and money proving the concept that VoIP could make money and could move beyond the geek space. Vonage did all of that, and now that Joe Blow is comfortable with the concept, and now that Vonage has millions of established customers, Verizon can swoop in, kill Vonage, and get all of those customers without having to spend all the time and money building all of that up themselves.

        So, in this case, even if Verizon's patent is valid, they behaved like a patent troll would: Let someone else do all the hard work building up customers and developing your patent into a marketable product, wait until they have lots of customers and are making lots of money, THEN go in and nail them.

        If Verizon was only interested in protecting their IP, they would have gone after Vonage a whole lot sooner.
        • Re:stalemate (Score:4, Insightful)

          by davmoo (63521) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:37PM (#18768769)
          While Vonage was doing all that work, they should have performed one more task. They should have had someone do a patent check.

          Its not totally Verizon's fault.
          • Re:stalemate (Score:5, Insightful)

            by virtual_mps (62997) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:11PM (#18769365)

            While Vonage was doing all that work, they should have performed one more task. They should have had someone do a patent check.

            Its not totally Verizon's fault.
            Hahahahaha. Have you actually ever done a patent search? Go ahead, list for us the patents that might affect a voice over IP business. That's why the system is stupid--there are so many patents that are so broadly written that it is easier to reinvent the wheel than to find it in the patent system. It is absolutely certain that any non-trivial product has implemented some patented ideas, but it would cost more than the product is worth to find them all.
          • Re:stalemate (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:19PM (#18769519) Journal
            Have you ever tried to do one? It's almost entirely impractical, and you'll end up coming to the conclusion that "printf("Hello world\n");" infringes on someone's patent. I've been doing a bit of coding today for an embedded system I'm designing, and although all of the code is run of the mill trivial stuff, I'd not be surprised if I've probably infringed at least four or five patents in the process. Fortunately, I don't live in the US so I don't care.

            Part of patent reform should include that if someone can prove beyond reasonable doubt that they independently came up with the idea that they are now being sued over, this should be evidence that the patent was not non-obvious in the first place (or else someone wouldn't have independently thought it up) - and this should automatically invalidate the patent.

            The USPTO themselves admit that only 5% of patents are worthy, they even have a term for these 5% - "pioneer patents" - i.e. patents that are truly novel and non-obvious. The other part of patent reform should be that only these "pioneer patents" should be accepted.
            • Why Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

              by SwiftOne (11497) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:38PM (#18769841)
              Have you ever tried to do one? It's almost entirely impractical, and you'll end up coming to the conclusion that "printf("Hello world\n");" infringes on someone's patent.

              (One of) The tragedy here is that the patent system is supposed to reward innovators in exchange for the recording and propagation of their idea. Pre-patent times, inventors (allegedly, I don't know the actual history) would secret away their creations, afraid that it'd be copied. Theoretically, many inventions were lost wit the death of their creator, only to be reinvented by someone else. Publication and recording is part of getting a patent, with one of the goals being that we don't spend ingenuity reinventing the wheel.

              If no one is consulting these patent records for how to solve a problem, we're not achieving a lot of the intended goal.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by spagetti_code (773137)

              Have you ever tried to do one?

              yes

              It's almost entirely impractical, and you'll end up coming to the conclusion that "printf("Hello world\n");" infringes on someone's patent

              In theory, yes, maybe.

              In practical, no. There are core areas to everyone's technology and those
              are what you need to focus on. In Vonage's case - their VoIP to POTS switching
              would at least have deserved a quick patent check. Its painful, but a few days
              work at most by a senior architect who understands their system.

              I'm not defending the pat

        • Re:stalemate (Score:5, Interesting)

          by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypher@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:41PM (#18769915) Homepage Journal
          Maybe Verizon's patent is a good one, but it's still pretty sleazy the way they did this. They basically let Vonage exist for years, let Vonage spend all the money marketing the VoIP concept to the masses, let Vonage spend all the time and money proving the concept that VoIP could make money and could move beyond the geek space. Vonage did all of that, and now that Joe Blow is comfortable with the concept, and now that Vonage has millions of established customers, Verizon can swoop in, kill Vonage, and get all of those customers without having to spend all the time and money building all of that up themselves.

          Yeah, you don't actually know that.

          I worked for a company I'll decline to identify when something vaguely parallel like this went on several years back; the companies were smaller, but still large companies. I worked for the Verizon analogue, which I'm going to start calling Bizarro-Verizon, because it's less awful than "the company I worked for" over and over, and because I've been watching SeaLab 2021.

          Bizarro-Verizon spent six months notifying Bizarro-Vonage that they needed to open up a licensing agreement; Bizarro-Vonage never seemed to bother. So, Bizarro-Verizon set up an account as if they were a customer at the publically published rates, and just started invoicing Bizarro-Vonage. Some manager inside Bizarro-Vonage spent a month getting the account coordinated and set up, then several months trying to haggle the price down, all the while letting this enormous debt grow and grow, only to announce one day that he couldn't actually find any point at which his company had agreed to pay at all, and since it had been a year, he felt it was pretty obvious they weren't infringing, that negotiations were over, and that we might consider using the invoices as kindling.

          So, Bizarro-Verizon spent a new six months indicating first that the account needed to be set up so that the standing debt for the use of their technology could be paid, and as that got ignored, progressively got angrier, until at the end they were threatening to sue. Bizarro-Vonage took the same gamble Real-Vonage took, and lost.

          Did we submarine them for a year and a half? No: it's just at medium-sized companies, it takes time for stuff to percolate from one end to the other, and more time to be convinced they're not doing what they're supposed to. At companies the size of AT&T and Vonage, I'm surprised they got here this quickly, to be frank.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AVee (557523)
        I'm not entirely into the details, but according to this [ipurbia.com] article the patents include the briliant idea to connect a voip network with the pots network. Anyone trying to patent something that obvious is a patent troll to me.

        And to be honest, the rest of these patents really look like solutions anyone could come up with given the same problem. And perhaps that is the biggest problem with patents these days, most of them are just describing logical obvious solutions. Generally it's just an old solution appl
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rifter (147452)

          I'm not entirely into the details, but according to this [ipurbia.com] article the patents include the briliant idea to connect a voip network with the pots network. Anyone trying to patent something that obvious is a patent troll to me.

          It's not just obvious, but not even novel. First off, VOIP is not by any means a new technology. The way it is currently being marketed is somewhat new, but before the big phone companies started doing this there were a lot of little companies that were trying to innovate

      • Yellow Submarine (Score:5, Interesting)

        by brunes69 (86786) <.gro.daetsriek. .ta. .todhsals.> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:39PM (#18768799) Homepage

        If this is a legitimate patent, then Verizon was right to enforce it, and it will only help innovation in the long run, by continuing the legal tradition of protecting new ideas. And the court decisions suggest that it was a legitimate patent.

        Wrong. Even assuming Verizon has patented a novel idea (which is highly in question), they DID NOTHING with that patent except sit on it, thus transforming it into a submarine patent, which is only used to extract peanalties from ANOTHER COMPANY that ACTUALLY HAD THE BALLS to pursue the idea.

        This is the whole problem with the patent situation. While patents are a good idea on paper, they are not in practice. This is because, basically, if you are granted a patent your best busines case IS TO NOT DEVELOP IT. It is far less risky and more cost-effeftive, to just sit on it for a few years until some unlocky company unknowingly creates a successful business around it - then sue the pants off them.

        Patents do not encourage innovation at all - all they do is stifle it. Patent reform is desperatly needed. Companies should not be allowed to sit on a patent. The way things SHOULD procced is this:

        Company / person has idea. File patent application.

        Patent is reviewed and approved. Patent enters implementation phase, which is some fixed period of time during which the idea is allowed to be brought to market by the company / person. Maybe 1 year?

        Implementation phase complete. Patent office then reviews patent AND evidence of implementation. If the company / person HAS NOT brought patent to market, then the patent is REJECTED and any and all ideas are now public domain. If they HAVE, then the patent is granted as par. current patent term length, whatever that is (I think it's 10 years?).

        • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @01:20PM (#18769525) Journal
          Great idea, but sometimes it takes more than a year to take a product to market. Sure it shouldn't take more than a year for a one click patent to come into use, but if you discover cold fusion, well it might take some time to get the funding and actually build a state of the art first ever cold fusion power plant.

          Should they really lose their patent after spending billions of dollars?

          What kind of research will this encourage?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dgatwood (11270)

            It's pretty simple to solve this. The implementation phase can last up to ten years, but each year, you must show that you have made reasonable progress from the prior year (as evaluated by experts in the field). A third party developing the concept independently from the ground up in a year would immediately invalidate the patent (brand new patents notwithstanding), as it would indicate that the company was not making a good faith effort to actually develop the technology into a product.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Chuckstar (799005)
              Way to simplify the patent system.

              You've also created a situation where not only the invention covered by the patent, but every step in the process of bringing the invention to market would have to be disclosed -- process of refining the invention, incorporating it into a larger product, product strategy (maybe the market is not ready to use or pay for the product), marketing decisions, and the list goes on.

              What if a company was to invent a great invention but it took eleven years before the production tech
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by danpsmith (922127)

            Great idea, but sometimes it takes more than a year to take a product to market. Sure it shouldn't take more than a year for a one click patent to come into use, but if you discover cold fusion, well it might take some time to get the funding and actually build a state of the art first ever cold fusion power plant. Should they really lose their patent after spending billions of dollars? What kind of research will this encourage?

            Oh come on, I know you were desperate to point out flaws in the parent's argu

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Implementation phase complete. Patent office then reviews patent AND evidence of implementation. If the company / person HAS NOT brought patent to market, then the patent is REJECTED and any and all ideas are now public domain.

          So verizon brings a VOIP service to market that costs $100 per hour, local calls only. No customers, no advertising, almost no expense.

          I agree with you though, this kind of thing really needs to be done. Just need to find a way to close the loopholes without being overcomplicate

      • by spun (1352)
        Why would anybody bother coming up with new ideas if anybody else could just copy them the next day?

        Money isn't everything. There's also fame, a sense of moral duty, getting a desirable mate, just for fun, to be able to brag, and many other motivations. I am sick and tired of the idea that profit is the only thing that motivates human beings. Open source would not work if that were the case.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Znork (31774)
        "There really needs to be a distinction made"

        No.

        "But the whole point of patents is to encourage innovation"

        Actually, the whole point of patents was to indirectly tax the population by handing out monopolies to friends of the crown. The later rationalizations have proven of dubious veracity and value.

        "Why would anybody bother coming up with new ideas if anybody else could just copy them the next day?"

        Why would anyone make a hammer if anybody else could just copy it the next day? Why would anyone invent a whe
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Thraxen (455388)
          While I think the patent system needs reform, your stance is a bit extreme and completely naive. It often costs a LOT of money to develop and idea into a product. Why should one company spend invest a ton of money into bringing a new idea into the marketplace only to have another company swipe their idea when they are done? The second company didn't spend a dime on the research. The first company should most definitely have the right to bring their idea into the market without a bunch of copycats sudden
      • by TigerNut (718742)
        But the whole point of patents is to encourage innovation, by providing protection for unique ideas. Why would anybody bother coming up with new ideas if anybody else could just copy them the next day? (That's especially true for startups, which don't have the money to compete head to head with larger, more established companies.)

        The point of patents is to provide protection for unique ideas - but the intent was to provide that protection to the innovators who were trying to build a business around that u

      • by michrech (468134)

        But the whole point of patents is to encourage innovation, by providing protection for unique ideas. Why would anybody bother coming up with new ideas if anybody else could just copy them the next day? (That's especially true for startups, which don't have the money to compete head to head with larger, more established companies.)


        This is what I hate about the entire argument.

        Without patents, people would come up with new ideas to "One up" the guys that copied them.

        Would this help the original person? Depen
        • by michrech (468134)
          Wish there was a way to edit your comments.. Oh-well..

          One thing I didn't add is that, in addition to the copy-cats, you'll also have those who will see an invention, use it as a base, improve it in some way(s), then release a new product.

          I could be wrong, but as I understand things as they currently stand, this is not possible (see Vonage, who took (knowingly or not) a method of connecting internet originated calls to the POTS network, adding in the ability to take the phone with you wherever you go, just
      • by delire (809063)

        Why would anybody bother coming up with new ideas if anybody else could just copy them the next day?

        Sigh. That's what copyright is for. Copyright stands for 'copying rights'. There's an entire legal infrastructure for this already in place.

        Software patents are a monopoly over an idea, not an 'invention'. Copyright protects an author's real work, the actual legal article, an actual implementation. If we accept patenting software and business methods why then shouldn't we allow for the patenting of music

    • by jdray (645332)
      Would you suggest ending patents all together? The article doesn't have a lot of details about what patents are being violated, but, presuming that the patent is for clearly different technology (unlike "one click" or somesuch), the patent holder should have the right to protect that. OTOH, the patent should be for the method, not the idea to do it. Vonnage should be able to come up with a different method for achieving the same goal (like launching an application by clicking on an associated graphical r
      • by walt-sjc (145127)
        I would scrap all "business process" and "software" patents. Let's get back to physical stuff that is truly innovative. The problem is that it is not feasible for the patent office to identify things that are "obvious to someone trained in the field" or simply rehashed old ideas applied to a new situation. They don't have the experts and don't have the manpower.
        • by jdray (645332)
          Agreed. I think the USPTO should have a forum here on Slashdot to collect opinions on patents being applied for. Patent examiners should read the forum filtered at 4 to obviate all the goatse, GNAA and "frist psot" posts, focusing on things that have been modded up by at least two people (making a three-vote for the comment being noteworthy on some level). I realize that this would require some level of maturity and commitment to the process on the part of Slashdot users, something that may be unattainab
    • by 71thumper (107491)
      There's been no sign that these patents are so sweeping that Verizon has patented VOIP-to-POTS. If they had they'd be going after Skype which has much deeper pockets.

      I think Vonage is simply tossing out a smokescreen here to try and get a ruling that forces a license fee they can live with.
  • by gatorflux (759239) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @11:27AM (#18767981)
    Woohoo woo hoo hoo!
  • It's worse than that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @11:48AM (#18768097) Journal
    Who will Verizon go after next? Skypeout?

    Now millions of people will have to turn to the existing vampiric phone services ... Verizon sucks and I won't be using their services.

    I've been very happy with Vonage, does anyone know a good alternative?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There is SunRocket [sunrocket.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Voidwalker (876958)
      good alternative

      www.lingo.com

      cheaper than vonage and more coverage (not that i ever have the desire to call europe, canada and mexico often or even the west coast come to think of it ...) though i wonder now that vonage is under the gun, if lingo will be next, i haven't found any info yet on what the patent covers
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pNutz (45478)
      One of the other independent VoIP's: Packet8 [packet8.net], BroadVoice [broadvoice.com], Skype (In/Out) [skype.com]...

      Though depending on how Vonage's saga plays out, their futures may be uncertain as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BobPaul (710574) *
      I like Vitelity.net. Depending on the Vonage adapter you currently have, you may be able to unlock it so you can use it with another provider. If you search the bargainshare.com forums, you can find instructions for most, if not all of them.

      But who's to know if Vitelity isn't also infringing. Does anyone know what the patents actually are? As I understand it, they were related to call termination--ie connecting a VoIP call to a POTS user. That could be a problem.
  • This is excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebcdic (39948) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @11:50AM (#18768109)
    Millions of people will be inconvenienced by patent enforcement.
    • Well given the customer churn Vonage has incurred and the fact they have never made a profit, together with a stock price in freefall (which is the real issue here as they simply cant afford to litigate an appeal, never mind pay Verizon the damages awarded against them) I would say they have already inconvienced quite a few people and many will say good riddance to Vonage.
    • Millions of people will be inconvenienced by patent enforcement.

      Are you kidding? Look at how greatly the arts and sciences are being promoted by this!

      Seriously, though, this might just be the wakeup call that's needed.

  • More Info? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @11:50AM (#18768113) Homepage
    What the patent that they are violating, and what does it cover? If it's not something that can be worked around, then what about other VOIP systems.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Billosaur (927319) *

      Better yet, why don't they just work out a deal to use the patents? Isn't that the idea of patents, to allow the patent holder to profit from the patent? I know making a deal with Verizon is like selling your soul to the Devil's unsavory second cousin, but if it's the difference between the end of your business and staying afloat...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rekoil (168689)
        Because Verizon has no interest in licensing the patent to Vonage - they're seeking an injunction preventing Vonage from using the technology, which mean no competing VoIP. The monetary damages they're seeking are for past infringement, not licensing fees for future use.

        One thing to remember is that Verizon, AT&T, etc. really don't see much of a profit from regulated phone service, or even LD service - it's the add-on services (Caller ID, VM, three-way calling, etc.) that they make a mint on. With compa
      • by alexhs (877055)

        why don't they just work out a deal to use the patents?
        FTFA, Verizon charges too much, so they can't afford that deal.

        1. Patent the wheel.
        2. License wheel to wheel manufacturers for $699 per unit.
        3. Profit !
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      This is the best quote I could find. No mention anywhere of the actual patent numbers involved.

      The infringed patents cover technology that translates calls between an Internet network and the standard telephone network, call-waiting features and wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, handsets. Vonage was cleared of infringing two patents related to billing systems designed to prevent fraud.
    • Re:More Info? (Score:4, Informative)

      by nebaz (453974) * on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:29PM (#18768605)
      I found a blog, which goes into some detail, about 3 patents in this dispute.

      Verizon-Vonage patent analysis Part One: 6,282,574 [zdnet.com]
      Verizon-Vonage Patent analysis Part Two: 6,104,711 [zdnet.com]
      Verizon-Vonage Patent analysis Part Three: 6,359,880 [zdnet.com]

    • by compro01 (777531)
      What the patent that they are violating, and what does it cover?

      IIRC from a previous story on this, the patent covers an IP-to-PSTN (normal phone service) bridge, which is a vital part of any VOIP service that allows you to place calls to normal telephones and not just VOIP phones in the same network.

      there is simply no way around this, as that single item is the thing that allows VOIP to work in the intended manner.

      this applies to ALL VOIP providers, not just vonage, that allow you to call outside of their
    • by mo (2873) *
      I believe the problem is that Verizon is going for a preliminary injunction. IE: Vonage has to stop being Vonage while the case plays out. The problem here is that even if Vonage can win the suit with prior art, if they have to shut down their service for three years while the suit goes on, they effectively lose.

      Thing is, Vonage probably knows that they could win the suit with prior art, which makes a settlement a nasty pill to swallow.
  • by The Great Pretender (975978) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:02PM (#18768179)
    Disclaimer - I am a Vonage customer

    My best guess:

    1) Vonage up the service cost to a level that Verizon can compete at and pay a licensing fee. Problem Verizon have them over a barrel and could pretty much demand what they want, forcing the operation costs too high - putting them out of business.

    2) Verizon buy out Vonage at a reduced cost. There's a bunch of people subscribed to Vonage. Even if the fees go up and a chunk stay, that's an easy market capture strategy. Infrastructure is in place etc. Verizon would then jack up the service cost.

    3) A third party buy out Vonage. Same problem, but now 1) and 2) are combined.

    4) Vonage get their stay. The court case goes on for a few years. Vonage's only argument is that 'it will put us out of business'. They go out of business anyway due to legal fees.

    There's plenty of more senarios, but in all cases the service bill will go up. So I need to read my subscription agreement and get ready to ditch the service when the bills start to go up. I wonder if there's a class action lawsuit here for deceiving the customer about ownership of the technology. I'm thinking along the lines of something like - you sub-lease office space, but then get kicked out as the primary leaseholders were not paying their rent to the landlord, also they did not have permission to sub-lease to you. So now you have no office and have lost other cash etc. Any lawyers care to comment?

    • by radtea (464814)
      I wonder if there's a class action lawsuit here for deceiving the customer about ownership of the technology.

      I'm not a lawyer, but I doubt it. First, consider other cases of Vonage bad behaviour: they have a long history of not telling customers the truth. They gave me false information about number mobility, and then tried to charge me a cancellation fee when it turned out I couldn't keep my old number. Based on the number of Vonage customer "service" horror stories circulating on the 'Net this kind of
    • by vertinox (846076)
      There's plenty of more senarios, but in all cases the service bill will go up.

      Actually, I could foresee military action in Iran in the next year resulting us being involved in a war versus Russia and China resulting in a scenario similar to "Red Dawn" which does not result in your phone bill going up.

      Of course seeing that their will be no more phone companies or basic utilities due to the nightly bombing raids makes it a moot point in my scenario.
    • by caudron (466327)

      Any lawyers care to comment?

      Dear Sir,

      Stop. Looking. For. A. Payout. You. Asshole.

      The world isn't fair. Sometimes things suck. Deal with it and quit looking for someone to owe you every time something changes.

      Sincerely,
      Tom Caudron, Esquire[1]
      http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]

      [1]The undersigned is not an attorney, but would like to play one on reality TV.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:04PM (#18768185) Homepage Journal
    I've seen various assertions that there is quite good prior art against at least some of the patents in question. Have they yet gone down that road?
  • And I thought these guys were pricks when I provisioned ADSL/SDSL/IDSL circuits for a regional ISP back in the late 90's. I could've sworn they had an "excuse" rolodex for reasons that a line installation would get delayed again.

    Regardless, farewell Vonage. It was nice knowing thee.

  • I realise theres some deep seated hatred for the old telcos in the USA (something which I don't really understand not being american) but if people want to give these old telcos the finger and go with a relatively immature technology such as a VOIP phone install then unfortunately these things will happen , whether it be technological or legal issues. I'm afraid my sympathy is limited. These people wanted something cheap or free and they might get burnt. Well tough.
    • Yes, I agree. How dare people try to move away from entrenched abusive monopolistic companies! I hope some lives get ruined.
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      US-based telcos have a very, very long history of trying to squeeze their customers as hard as possible. The government frequently has to step in to and kick them until they let go. Even if a perfectly sane, nice, customer-oriented telco were to start up today, it would be treated with the same disrespect all the others have earned.

      Telcos aren't alone in this, though... It's pretty much any utility.
    • by harryk (17509)
      Wow... you admit to not knowing the history, obviously don't understand the technology and then offer an opinion... only on Slashdot..
    • (Notice they change their name every couple years despite being a monopoly.)

      1. Moving into my new house, I try to get DSL service (which I already had at my old house). I call a full 6 weeks ahead to make sure. Cable modem was not released in our area yet, so there was only one option. The install date is 7 1/2 weeks later. I decide we can live without internet for a week and a half.

        They show up and say it's impossible. I'm too far from the CO. Now, mind you, my next door neighbor has DSL and he is

  • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:14PM (#18768337)

    . . . but the game will stay the same. That big ole user base is worth too much money to too many people to have it dissolved. I suspect that Verizon will try to forge a settlement which involves some large part of said users.

    Huzzah for competition.

    • Verizon is bound by the rules that bind incumbant telecoms. Vonage is in too many markets, it might be a regulatory nightmare to "buy" their user base. Vonage ussually has a fairly regulation free position as a CLEC. Its business practices would vilify any ILEC but since it's the little guy the stories don't get blown up as big. Hard to cencel, hidden cencel fees, no service garentees, almost impossible to port out of, and so on. It has it's fans but everyone I know who has tried it, hates it.
  • This sucks. I have been completely satisfied with my Vonage service. It is far superior to any other phone service I have ever had. The ability to have my voicemails delivered as email has been fantastic. The price has been fantastic. The Quality of Service has been fantastic.

    And now it's all going away.

    That sucks.
  • ...from the start. After all, that's what I'd say if I were in their position. Research in Motion talked about a workaround during the latter stage of its legal woes with NPT Inc. But in the end they paid six hundred extra-large ones (aka millions) to make NTP go away. So we'll never know if they really had a workaround of any sort (I suspect they never did, but what do I know). Given that Vonage has never made money, they're in no position to do what RIM did to solve this issue. So they're screwed plain an
  • Good Thing (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArchieBunker (132337) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @12:19PM (#18768425) Homepage
    They sent me an email this morning saying I can save by paying a year in advance. Not a good idea now...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oliphaunt (124016)
      They sent me an email this morning saying I can save by paying a year in advance. Not a good idea now...

      If Vonage can show that the Verizon patents are frivolous, customer sentiment like that will be evidence that Vonage can use in their countersuit for tortious interference...

      (not a lawyer. yet.)
  • go ahead, call for Qwest One-Flex, Asterisk, Speakeasy, whomever. I'm sure they'll transfer your number.

    it's not like Vonage customers will never be able to use a phone again in their lives....
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Boo-hoo, boo-hoo-hoo!
    Boo-hoo, boo-hoo,
    Boo-hoo, boo-hoo-hoo!
  • If this patent really is so broad that it affects all VoIP and there's no possible work-around, then this sounds to me like an antitrust suit waiting to happen.
  • by retro128 (318602)
    I browse at +3, so maybe I missed a comment thread regarding this, but since Vonage does VoIP - why couldn't they just move their operations out of the US like what Kazaa was doing when they were pursued by the RIAA?
  • In the face of a patent infringement lawsuit from Sprint, they might just sell themselves [lightreading.com] to the company instead. The anticipated timing of such an announcement? April 24, when the hearing on the stay is set to occur. The slide in stock price definitely makes Vonage an attractive target for acquisition just for the customer base and Sprint has deep pockets to duke this thing out with.
  • by badnews (571848)
    supposing the worst, (Vonage dies or is given to Verizon), can the hardware be salvaged for some other use?

    I've got the Linksys RTP300 box. If i understand correctly, the firmware has been 'updated' by Vonage to work only with Vonage service ...

    It would be really cool if Vonage could, as a last act, stuff it with a linux kernel and Asterix.

    Since I don't expect that to happen, is it possible to do that myself?
  • by Per Bothner (19354) <per@bothner.com> on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @02:03PM (#18770329) Homepage
    I haven't heard anything about a patent re-examination. Has Vonage requested that? Has the patent office really re-affirmed the validity of these apparently overbroad patents? If not, why didn't Vonage ask for a stay (preferably before the verdict) so the patent office could re-examine the patents? Didn't they learn anything from the Blackberry case?
  • by pbhj (607776) on Tuesday April 17, 2007 @05:48PM (#18774073) Homepage Journal
    As I understand it (and I've been out of patent examining for a few years so I'm quite rusty) TRIPS places a requirement on the US patent system to include some compulsory licensing to enable patented technologies to be exploited.

    So, if Verizon were to sit on the tech and not exploit it (a defensive patent) then Vonage could force them to accede to a reasonable license term.

    If Vonage simply didn't know about the patent and Verizon are using it themselves (which it seems they are), all Vonage can hope is that they'll get a license. It's tough but that's what "granting a monopoly on exploitation of a novel technology" means - only one company / person goes home with the money.

    Of course it's probably better for Verizon to offer a license unless they can take over Vonage's customers for themselves.

    It does seem hard on Vonage, but they should have done their research. If they too have made some novel advances in this field then things usually get resolved in some cross-licenseing agreement (involving cloaks and daggers!). So this is the patent system working properly - the innovators win ... that's the point.

    I've not looked in detail but the patent in question may be one of the so-called submarine patents that used to be a feature of the US system but which now (see eg http://www.meti.go.jp/english/report/data/g400112e .html [meti.go.jp]) are avoided by early "A"-publication (#1) in the US in common with JPO, EPO, UKPO, etc.. In which case it wouldn't matter if Vonage did do their homework, but I think the compensation requirements are severely reduced under such circumstances.

    ---

    #1 - thus now ungranted patents are published in the US which has led the uninitiated to believe that the USPTO grants everything, commonly the initial filing is published then only the amended claims (which define the monopoly) are re-published.

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