Vonage ordered to pay Verizon $58 million in patent spat

Judge rules that Vonage infringed three out of seven patents belonging to Verizon, but the company has vowed to appeal against the ruling.

Vonage has been financially lambasted to the tune of $58 million for infringing three patents held by rival communications company Verizon.

The voice over IP (VoIP) service provider was found guilty of the allegations, concerning commercial-quality VoIP services such as wireless access, by the US District Court for the Virginia Eastern District earlier this week.

But it has vowed to appeal at a hearing later this month and has sought to reassure customers that there should be no adverse impact to their dealings with the company as a result of the ruling.

"We are delighted that the jury rejected Verizon's merit less claim that we infringed their two billing patents," Vonage said in a statement.

"Of the seven patents Verizon originally sued on, they prevailed on only three and we expect that verdict to be reversed on appeal. The jury's damage award represents a 70 per cent reduction from Verizon's $197 million claim. The jury also unanimously rejected Verizon's claim that Vonage willfully infringed its patents."

The statement continued: "In addition, we don't believe there is any basis to support Verizon's request for an injunction and we will have the opportunity to present our position to the trial court shortly. If the trial court does impose an injunction, we will seek an immediate stay from the Federal Court of Appeals. Vonage's customers should see no change to any aspect of their phone service."

"Verizon's innovations are central to its strategy of building the best communications networks in the world," said John Thorne, Verizon's senior vice president and deputy general counsel.

"We are proud of our inventors and pleased the jury stood up for the legal protections they deserve."

The financial penalisation will hit Vonage hard as the company has already suffered losses and needs to work hard to limit the damage caused by the case, according to Jan Dawson, vice president of analyst Ovum's US enterprise practice.

The decision is also likely to have implications beyond just those involved, added Dawson.

"The case also has wider implications. Vonage has argued that the patents it allegedly infringed on were written so broadly as to catch many industry standard technologies in their net, making it almost impossible to work around them," said Dawson.

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