Fellow blogger Andy Abramson writes that Ken Rutkowski, with whom he co-hosts the World Technology RoundUp has just forwarded him an email from an engineer who is listed as one of the three inventors of a 3Com patent that covers much if not most of the same ground one of the Verizon patents at the heart of the infringement action against Vonage does:
Michael J. Musiel writes Ken:
I can tell you that three of us from USR sat in a VP's office in the Personal Communications Division of USR back in Feb of 1996, and said, hey this VOIP thing is going to be big some day, how do we route calls from IP addresses on the net to phone numbers on the PSTN, and track all of this through a central server network? That was how it all got started.
Musiel then adds these details to Ken:
I have had no luck contacting Vonage through their web site, so I thought I should pass this along your way....I originally wrote up this patent for USR back in early 1996 (US Patent number 6,529,501), it is now assigned to 3Com. The whole purpose of this patent was how to address mapping computers, VOIPphone devices, and regular phones to each other using the PSTN andthe Internet using central lookup servers to match phone numbers As far as I can tell, it covers most of the issues that Verizon sued Vonage over.
I'm a hardware/software engineer, not a patent lawyer, so I don't know if any of has any implications. The Verizon patentdoes not reference mine, nor mine theirs, which would mean that both of our patent applications were in process at the same time and that the examiners were not aware of the other application.
Andy thinks the existence of this Patent could lead to a licensing model that could start to pave the way out of this mess for Vonage. But would Verizon even be willing to listen?