Sprint Nextel sues VoIP providers over patents

A unit of Sprint Nextel sued Vonage Holdings and another VoIP provider on Tuesday, alleging that the companies are infringing its patents.

Sprint Communications Co. LP claims the companies violated seven patents on technology for processing and delivering packetized voice and data, including VoIP. Its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, in Kansas City, Kansas, seeks an injunction against further infringement and unspecified monetary damages. In addition to Vonage, the suit names Voiceglo Holdings Inc. and its parent company, theglobe.com Inc., according to Sprint Nextel spokeswoman Debra Peterson.

VoIP allows users to make phone calls over the Internet and other packet-based data networks, generally at lower cost and more flexible features such as being able to choose phone numbers from different area codes. Vonage, in Edison, N.J., is one of the biggest VoIP service providers in the U.S., with more than 1 million active lines, according to the company. Voiceglo, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also provides packet-based phone service over the Internet.

Sprint Nextel had been talking with the companies for more than a year, Peterson said.

"We had tried to discuss possible license agreements that would permit them to use our [intellectual property] legally," Peterson said, but the companies were unable to reach agreement.

"We're going to take all steps necessary to protect the creativity and innovation of our employees," Peterson said. She declined to comment on whether Sprint Nextel has been negotiating with other VoIP providers or may take legal action against them.

Vonage and Voiceglo were not immediately available for comment.

Sprint Nextel was formed earlier this year through the merger of Sprint Corp. and Nextel Communications Inc. It is the third-largest mobile operator in the U.S. and also has wireline operations inherited from Sprint. The company's operational headquarters are in Overland Park, Kan., which was the home base of Sprint. The patent negotiations predate that merger, Peterson said.

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