Poor Sweet Little Vonage
In the case of Verizon Services Corp v Vonage Holdings, 06-cv-682, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.The court has four divisions: Alexandria, Newport News, Norfolk, and Richmond.
A complete docket of the case can be found here. The case was heard in Alexandria. Vonage was erroneously ruled against by the jury and the judge issued an injunction which would have "strangled" Vonage slowly.
Vonage has signed an agreement with VOIP Inc for workarounds on two of the alleged patent infringements; and has won a stay on the customer ban included in the injunction, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington.
Of these seven patents and the numerous claims made in the suit, the jury found the following three patents and 6 claims were infringed upon and that the infringement was NOT willful:
Claim 20 of patent 6,104,711 filed March 6, 1997; issued Aug 15, 2000; for a "Enhanced Internet Domain Name Server" held by Assignee Bell Atlantic Network Services, Inc., Arlington, Va.
Claim 27 of patent 6,282,574 filed February 24, 2000; issued on Aug 28, 2001; for a "Method, server and telecommunications system for name translation on a conditional basis and/or to a telephone number." (This patent is an extension of patent 6,104,711) held by the same Assignee.
Claims 1,6,7,8 of patent 6,359,880 filed July 30, 1999; issued March 29, 2002; for a "Public wireless/cordless internet gateway."
Said patent being a divisional of patent 6,542,497 filed March 11, 1997; issued April 1, 2003; for a "Public wireless/cordless internet gateway" held by Assignee Verizon Services Corp., Arlington, VA.
The claims "infringed" upon in Patents '711 & '574: the "inventors" at Verizon "created" what could be called DNS for phone systems.
This alleged patented "technology" is used by an Open Internet standard called ENUM , standardized in RFC 3761; "The E.164 to Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI) Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS) Application (ENUM)" copyrighted in April 2004 by The Internet Society;
which superceded RFC 2916 ; "E.164 number and DNS" copyrighted in September 2000.
RFC 3761 Abstract: "This document discusses the use of the Domain Name System (DNS) for storage of E.164 numbers. More specifically, how DNS can be used for identifying available services connected to one E.164 number.
It specifically obsoletes RFC 2916 to bring it in line with the Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS) Application specification found in the document series specified in RFC 3401."
RFC 3401 (DDDS) was copyrighted in October 2002 and supercedes RFC 2276 which was copyrighted in January 1998 and addresses the issues of the discovery of URN (Uniform Resource Name) resolver services that in turn directly translate URNs into URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) and URCs (Uniform Resource Characteristics).
Using RFC 3761 or ENUM, you look up the phone number in a DNS server and the DNS server, using standardized records, returns the address to which to send calls. This information is in a public database, which anyone can use.
The claims in patents '711 and '574 are very broad in scope. Given that JEEVES was translating names to numbers on the ARPANET in 1983; it would appear that at a minimum claim 20 of patent 6,104,711 is obviously and patently UNPATENTABLE.
The claims "infringed" upon in Patent 880: this appears to be a public/wireless/cordless gateway setup for wireless VoIP. The claims made in patent 880 are for the normal use of the SIP REGISTER method as defined in RFC 3261 copyrighted in June 2002;
RFC 3261 describes Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), an application-layer control (signaling) protocol for creating, modifying, and terminating sessions with one or more participants. These sessions include Internet telephone calls, multimedia distribution, and multimedia conferences.
RFC 3261 superceded RFC 2543 copyrighted in March 1999; which describes Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and includes the intial SIP REGISTER method, which is how a Vonage or any VoIP phone makes its presence and current location known.
Once again the claims in patent 880 are very broad in scope (and given that RFC2543 pre-dates the Verizon patent) and clearly appear to be obviously and patently UNPATENTABLE.
The claims in patent '711 and '574 are implemented via the claims in Patent 880: Vonage and all other SIP-based VoIP providers use standard protocols specified in The Internet Society RFCs.ITSP's like Vonage use these Open Standard's with both public databases (e164.arpa is the official one, e164.org is a public, but unofficial one, and any company can run private internal versions) to determine how to route calls both from the Internet to the PSTN and from the PSTN to the Internet, as applicable.
Anyone can query the public database used by thousands of ITSPs all over the world to deliver traffic to U.S. 800 numbers.
The 880 patent also claims the use of any VoIP protocol in which a wireless enabled phone registers itself as being available from a local wireless system, such as a WiFi hotspot or a home or office private WiFi network.
Vonage WiFi phones, all other WiFi SIP phones, and even a laptop with a softphone client contacting ANY ITSP (including Vonage, Skype, or even any home or business or other VoIP PBX) do exactly what the claims of this patent "invent".What Verizon claims as unique is simply the act of performing these operations over a WiFi gateway. Verizon's claim is analogus to patenting the use of normal eMail protocols when connected to a WiFi Hotspot.
Therefore, if Verizon prevails, the use of any VoIP telephony device (no matter who the ITSP provider is) from any WiFi Hotspot and anyone who has bought ANY WiFi SIP phone, is in infringement of this "patent".
To allow a patent like this to stand would be analogous to allowing Verizon to patent the common practice of placement and use of salt and pepper shakers on public restaurant and cafeteria tables.
If these patents and their claims are found valid, Vonage would find it difficult to design an alternative way of hooking its network to the [PSTN].
And so would any VoIP provider as the entire VoIP industry has built its back on the ENUM standard in RFC 3761. Therefore, the entire VoIP industry would have to shut down, and the ENUM internet standard as defined would also be dead.
Worldwide, the VoIP industry, and in fact the whole telephone industry, is designing the future of telephony with the ENUM standard. This includes the manufacturers of the devices from Linksys, D-Link, Netgear, and as well.
I.E. The PSTN in Austria now operates using ENUM: If you pick up ANY phone in Austria and dial an "0780" number, an ENUM lookup of <the number backwards>.0.8.7.3.4.e164.arpa takes place, and the call is placed over the Internet in accordance with the data returned.
Globally these so called patent's are INVALID and UNENFORCEABLE, because you can only patent devices, you can't patent "a way of doing business" anywhere but in the U.S.
Verizon knows the U.S. patent process is flawed and that their lawsuit has no merit, and that their suit will eventually be thrown out or overturned.
Their obvious intention, in the short term, was to do enough damage to Vonage's stock price, by scaring investors. Vonage shares fell 25 cents to $3.37 yesterday in NYSE trading. They have fallen 51% this year.
With Vonages' stock being tanked by the lawsuit and injunctions; if the Appellate Court makes an aggregious error of law; the only way out is for Vonage to sell to Verizon, at pennies on the dollar.
Unfortunately it seems, that the very governmental agencies that helped bust up the original Ma Bell AT&T monopoly through anti-trust laws are now lapdogs of the telecom industry, amongst others.
Thus, the Verizon's, Sprint's and "new" AT&T's appear to be relatively free to assassinate upstarts by using the legal system and bleeding potential competitors to death with meritless law suits and legal fees.
In fact, Sprint is next in line with a merit-less patent infringement suit vs poor sweet little Vonage. Is this Truth, Justice and the American Way?
Will we stand by idly and watch as the new generation of Telecom and other industrial monopolists continue to offer subpar outsourced service while price gouging their customers?
And all along, suppressing competition and potential technological advances through abuse of our overtaxed legal system? Obviously, the lawsuit and patent's CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be allowed to stand.
Interesting codicil: Jonathan Rosenberg while at Lucent Technologies, Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, NJ and Eve Schooler (while at AT&T Labs Research in Menlo Park, CA) were co-authors of RFC 2543 and RFC 3261.
Why does this matter?? Just follow along… and remember, incest is best, but only when you keep it in the family…
the Plantiff, Verizon was formed when Bell Atlantic acquired GTE on June 30, 2000 and MCI on Feb 14, 2005. Bell Atlantic was a directly owned subsidiary of the original Ma Bell AKA AT&T.
Therefore, Bell Laboratories (which was spun off to Lucent Technologies) and AT&T Laboratories both contributed and collaborated in a COMMON EFFORT with OTHER providers and equipment manufacturer's…
And benefited from the very RFC STANDARDS and specifications which Verizon now claims to have exclusively patented at the expense of all other participants in a OPEN PUBLIC copyrighted process.
Furthermore, in Patent 711, which is the oldest of the Verizon patents filed for on March 6, 1997; reference is made to RFC 1789 which authored in April 1995 predates all of Verizon's patents and decribes "INETPhone: Telephone Services and Servers on Internet."
Since startup Vonage has not turned a profit and only has a little over 2 million customers. I am a very satisfied Vonage customer whom has saved a lot of money on my local, long distance and international phone service in the last 3 years.
Verizon currently has 140.3 million land lines in service. With MCI, it has more than 250,000 employees.
In 2006, Verizon, with MCI, was the largest telecommunications company in the United States based on sales of $75.11 billion with profits of $7.4 billion and assets of $168.13 billion.
I am also a very satisfied Verizon customer and it seems that Verizon just isn't satisfied with the 44.94 per month they get for the FIOS 15mbps pipeline they provide.
Verizon wants it all and they want it now, and I think they should get what they deserve. If these obviously invalid patent's and merit-less lawsuits are overturned, which in a just society, they should be…
then Vonage should counter sue and be awarded treble anti trust damages from Verizon. This would discourage any further idiocy on the part of these telecom giants and other would be industrial monopolists.