Verizon KOs Vonage

It looks like Chicken Little was right.

The sky is falling and Foxy Woxy Verizon is going to snap off Vonage’s head with a permanent injunction that bids fair to shut down the VoIP provider.

Now I’m certainly no expert on intellectual property law so I’ll leave comment about the legal ins and outs to the lawyers.

But as a citizen, I think there’s something here that gets to the heart of the whole notion of intellectual property.

Nobody disputes your right to the opportunity to make money from your inventions — think Thomas Edison and the incandescent light bulb. It’s not an abstract valuation of human creativity. It’s an incentive to bring new inventions to market that make life better, easier, more enjoyable. Even the Chinese have come round to recognize that patent and copyright protection is to their advantage in the long run.

But suppose Edison had patented the light bulb so he could prevent other people from using the technology while he continued to make a killing in his candle-manufacturing monopoly?

Closer to the present, suppose Tim Berners-Lee had patented the World Wide Web and socked the technology away so he could slap a patent infringement lawsuit on everyone creating an accessible user interface for the Internet? You probably wouldn’t be reading the New York Times — or me, for that matter — online.

Let’s face it. If we waited for Verizon to deliver VoIP, we’d still be waiting. Ten years ago when pioneers were going out on a limb experimenting with IP for voice communications Verizon was nowhere to be found.

And now that I think about it, maybe Verizon needs to answer to us, the people, about why they had this technology and didn’t use it to give us low-cost phone calls. Or the other features that are now commonplace with VoIP — free voicemail, call waiting, caller ID or voicemail-to-email.

Verizon may have won in the court of law but in the court of public opinion, the jury is still deliberating.

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  • DickJohnson

    Verizon does have a VoIP product called VoiceWing. Now it isn’t available everywhere and much of that may be due to how highly regulated the company still is. Did you know that The Vonage or other cable telephone providers don’t have to follow the same rules as a regulated company like Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon? So, if Verizon wants to take back the technology that Vonage has stolen from them and not allow them to use it, so be it. It is their right to do so. As with public opinion? Well, lets just agree that we all want everything for free, and if we don’t get it, then we will cry foul. Competition is a very good thing, when it is legal. When it is illegal, then Vonage should not be allowed to make a profit on the back of someone else’s labor. If Vonage ceases to exist, then good riddence. They stole technology, and now they must pay the price.

  • paulb50

    Carolyn hit the nail on the head. Yes it’s important to allow intellectual advantage and reward businesses smart enough to invent technology but some consideration must be given to companies who invent for no other reason than to protect their oligopoly.

    Let’s compare this to oil. THere’s big hype right now about e85 and what Brazil has done. Let’s morph Verizon into an Oil company. Verizon Oil invents a process to convert sugar into gas additive that you mix and lower the amount of gasoline needed to drive a car. They then put it in their corporate library but DON”T do much with the invention and instead charge customers the normal $2.85 a gallon. All they’ve done is created a hedge against a future customer loss in the event someone else comes forth with the same service. Smart but bad for consumers.

    My opinion – and I’m sure there are many who feel the same way – I personally feel cheated by this lawsuit and it reinforces how/ why there are massive inequities in our society. Our laws make it very easy for incumbents to squash upstarts – or in this case start-ups.

    Why didn’t the evil empire start it’s lawsuit as soon as Vonage started? Because VOnage sucked away a significant enough percent of Verizon’s customers that they had to drop the hidden ace on the table. Now the court is acting as Verizon’s Henchman and has done the public flogging.

    I hope the fed court sees it differently because Vonage has done many of the right things at leveraging the technology to benefit consumers and create additional competition.

  • JCH

    Verizon’s VoiceWing service started in 2006, years behind
    other public systems. And Verizon has done very little, in fact,
    to promote or develop VoIP technologies.

    As for Vonage infringing upon Verizon patents, that’s hard to
    believe, considering the above. Perhaps Vonage has had too
    much uncontrolled growth.

    As for Verizon, this is probably one of the most exploitive
    companies in existence. I continue to have to pay tax on
    land that Verizon uses to provide service to my neighbors.
    In our environment of Cell Phones, Satellite Dish, and Radio,
    the use of MY LAND for the “public good” does not seem
    justified. Now Verizon is running fiber with assurances that
    it cannot be used by competitors. If Verizon can’t be profitable
    running fiber, then they shouldn’t do it.

    Big Oil looks like a saint (in terms of property exploitation)
    compared to Verizon. I for one will cut Verizon
    some slack when they cut me a check. Most assuredly,
    Verizon does NOTHING FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD. That’s the truth,
    and you don’t even have to look over the horizon to find it.

  • DickJohnson

    The ruling that the federal court made yesterday was a very good one. Vonage can no longer sign up new customers until they stop using the stolen technology. That is excellent news indeed. What Verizon has done is allowed Vonage to continue operations with existing customers so they can remain in business. You will see, however, that Vonage has yet to turn a profit since its inception as a company. Verizon did not have to do this, but they did.

    I am confused why you are expecting a company to do something to support competition. If you were the CEO of Verizon, would you encourage others to use your technology to take away business? I am sure that you wouldn’t. If you have more money than someone else, do you give it all to them until each of you has an equal portion? What you are describing is not competition, but rather socialism. Business in America (or other countries for that matter) is Darwinist. Survival of the fittest, need I say more?

    I support competition completely, but you must develop your own technology. This is why the patent system was created so that others could *NOT* infringe on your developments.

    If Vonage goes completely under, then so be it. Simply put, they are common criminals that must be punished for stealing someone elses property.