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Vonage and Verizon off to court (update)

Verizon and Vonage will later today, present opening statements in a patent-infringement case that focuses on the technology the VoIP firm uses to connect calls from its IP service to phones on the traditional network.

Vonage, one of the best-known brands in the VoIP business with 2 million customers, denies any wrongdoing. It claims its technology is standards-based. However, if Verizon wins this case, it could force Vonage, which has been harassed by myriad problems, to shut down and redesign its service. In a report published in the US paper USA Today Vonage seemed to admit that it did not have a plan to get around using technology Verizon claims violates patents it owns.

Verizon sued Vonage in June, claiming broad patent violation. In January it alleged that Vonage had “appropriated the results of years of research conducted by Verizon and its predecessors. Vonage relies on the intellectual property developed by Verizon in delivering its infringing product and services.”

Verizon wants monetary damages and for Vonage to stop using what it says is Verizon’s technology.

A spokeswoman for Vonage insisted the USA Today report had been “taken out of context” saying the company “does have a [technical] plan” if Vonage loses the case. “That plan would allow us to continue to offer our services and continue to service our customers… but we don’t think it will come to that.”

The spokeswoman added: “This is the big American company way: to pull smaller companies into a forum where a larger company can win but this is more about their inability to compete with us in a competitive market. We think this case is frivolous and the only way they [Verizon] know how.”

In an unexpected twist, the spokeswoman confirmed that if Vonage wins the case, it would “have a shot at invalidating all their [Verizon’s] patents in this space”. Something a legal source said was “customary in this sort of case and entirely plausible”.

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