Intellectual Property (IP) is one of the great buzzwords of our time, just as Aesop's story of the ant and the grasshopper is one of the great stories of all time. (The picture is from a poll by Linda Michelle Barron.)
Politicians jump to praise IP and courts endorse it because, they think, it's the only way to reward invention and keep innovation going.
Some holders of patent rights are indeed hard-working ants. They readily bring their creations to market and protecting them from copycats makes sense.
Then there are the IP grasshoppers who give the rest a bad name.
Many people think of SCO as an IP grasshopper, and it's this feeling that is behind the intense hatred many in the open source community now harbor toward Steve Ballmer. Using patent law to eliminate competitors who worked hard and played by the rules, people don't like that.
The same is true, in spades, regarding the Verizon suit against Vonage.
Essentially Verizon is claiming technology it refused to use, that it deliberately kept from the market to protect its revenue stream, is being trod-on by Voice Over IP vendors, and therefore the industry they have worked so hard to create belongs to the phone company.
It reminds me of the urban myth of the car that ran on water, that the car companies supposedly suppressed a generation ago. Imagine if someone actually came up with such a car and then, after selling millions of them, GM showed up claiming patent rights. How do you think voters would feel if courts endorsed that theft?
This kind of grasshopper behavior, expecting the benefits of work done by someone else, is not only an abuse of the patent laws, it not only threatens to place patents into disrepute, but it's damaging to American competitiveness.
The idea that the world would pay Verizon an IP tax on common Internet standards is absurd. It's just another way to keep the U.S. phone network marching backward, and assure that the Internet's future is made in Asia.