John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

While the Court Appreciates the Offer of Free Lifetime Vonage Service, It Must Respectfully Decline. The Court’s Phone System Must Be Above All Other Things Reliable.

Some days you are the bug, others you are the windshield. For the past few months, Vonage has been the bug mercilessly
pinned to Verizon’s windshield, but that may soon change.

A pivotal U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that made it more difficult to get an obvious patent and easier to challenge existing ones prompted Vonage on Tuesday to demand a new trial in its patent spat with Verizon (see “And to Your Left Is the Pride of Our Breeding and Research Center, the Golden-Rumped Patent Troll“). Not 24 hours after the high court released its unanimous opinion in KSR International Co. v. Teleflex Inc. et al., the struggling VoIP company asked the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., to send its patent case back to the district court to consider whether the court’s decision renders Verizon’s patents invalid.

In a statement, Sharon O’Leary, Vonage’s chief legal officer, explained the maneuver. “According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, if you patent an orange picker, and then someone else comes along and puts a glove on it to protect the oranges against bruising, you can’t patent this new invention as ‘novel,’ as it is just an obvious improvement of the original invention,” she said. “The Supreme Court’s decision thus focuses on keeping only what’s truly novel and original protected by patents.” Which is to say, nothing in the Verizon patents, at least as I understand them, seem to claim a monopoly over some pretty obvious features of VoIP functionality. As Ars Technica recently noted, “the ‘invention’ described in [Verizon’s] patents is a combination of an excruciatingly obvious point–that it would be helpful for an Internet telephony application to have a mechanism for translating between phone numbers and IP addresses–and a series of ‘enhancements’ to DNS servers that many network engineers would regard as a step backwards.”