Things just went from "really bad" to "oh man that sucks" for Vonage
. The VoIP provider is requesting a permanent stay on Judge Claude Hilton's decision in the Verizon patent suit, which decrees that Vonage can't sign up any new customers
until it figures out a way to provide them service that doesn't infringe upon Verizon's patents. Vonage had already been granted a temporary stay, saying that they'd drum up a workaround, but this new request is much more pessimistic, saying that because Verizon's patents are so broad, such technology would take months to develop, "if even feasible." The unlucky company is making a bit of a pity play as well, saying that even if it "was somehow able to implement a design around, and was able to ultimately prevail on appeal, it would have no hope of regaining its lost customers, or its lost goodwill, and its loss of revenue would be permanent and..." Oddly, the statement cuts out there, because the rest of it was redacted as "confidential material." The whole Vonage statement is in fact riddled with such holes, making it hard to figure out exactly what's going on -- other than the fact that Vonage doesn't like its chances of building a workaround. No mention of that VoIP Inc. safety net
either, but perhaps Vonage still thinks it has a shot at doing this the old fashioned way.
Tier 1 research analyst Daniel Berninger points out
that it's actually possible that Verizon's patents may be illegitimate. Apparently the two patents in question, 6,104,711 (filed March 6, 1997) and 6,282,574 (filed February 24, 2000) may themselves use technology openly discussed and published by VocalTec back in 1996. In fact, it may also indirectly include technology input from the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Nortel, etc. made during the VoIP Forum in 1996, with the businesses' original intentions that this tech be used in future open standards. Can anything be proved here that would give Vonage a get out of jail free card? Well, we're certainly not lawyers (we'll defer to the legally-inclined in our audience), but already this patent he-said she-said is smacking a bit of RIM and NTP's fracas, and we all know how ugly that wound up being for the BlackBerry maker
*Verizon is currently in the process of acquiring AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.