I have no opinion on this ruling’s merits, but I am mildly concerned.
A federal judge [last week] dealt a potentially fatal blow to Vonage Holdings, the Internet-phone service that offers one of the few alternatives to traditional carriers, by ordering it to stop using a technology that connects its network to the public telephone system.
U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton approved the request by Verizon Communications for a permanent injunction two weeks after a jury in Alexandria found that three of its patents had been infringed by Vonage, including one for the technology allowing the Internet company’s 2.2 million customers to call regular phones.
I don’t have the intellectual hissy fit that many libertarians have about intellectual property protections. I think they’re necessary and appropriate in capitalism. Intellectual property has subjective but identifiable value, much like other forms of property. If Verizon innovated a technology, to an extent, it should be able to reap the benefits of that.
That said, I’m a Vonage customer. I like its service. I refuse to pay Verizon’s prices, which I deem absurdly high. If Verizon wins through the appeals process and decides against licensing its technology to Vonage in favor of forcing voice-over-Internet protocol companies out of business, I will not become a Verizon customer. I suspect many VoIP customers feel the same. I have a cell phone, which will be enough. Frustrating, but enough.
If it ultimately wins, this should be an opportunity for Verizon to figure out that it can earn an additional revenue stream if it doesn’t kill the golden goose. The mere existence of VoIP should tell it that it’s been passed. Will it listen?