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Vonage agrees settlement on Sprint lawsuit

09 октября 2007

Vonage Holdings, the internet phone company, agreed on Monday to pay $80m to settle a patent suit filed by Sprint Nextel, the third largest US mobile carrier. The settlement sent shares in Vonage, a pioneer in voice over internet protocol (VOIP), sharply higher. It will ease concerns that Vonage could be forced out of business by patent suits filed by incumbent carriers. Vonage shares jumped $1.42, or 123 per cent, to close at $2.57 in New York.

The settlement came two weeks after a jury in the US District Court in Kansas City found that Vonage, which has about 2.45m subscribers, infringed six Sprint patents. Vonage was ordered to pay $69.5m in damages.In the wake of that verdict, Vonage’s stock, which has been under pressure ever since the company was floated at $17 a share in May last year, sank below $1 a share. New Jersey-based Vonage said initially that it would appeal.

However, Vonage said on Monday it had decided that it would be better to settle the suit. Sharon O’Leary, Vonage’s chief legal officer, said: “We are pleased to resolve our dispute with Sprint and enter into a productive future relationship.

“We believe this deal is good news for Vonage, our customers and our shareholders,” the company said. “It allows us to put this litigation behind us and continue to focus on our core business by removing the uncertainty of legal reviews and long-term court action.

Under the terms of the settlement which resolves all claims in the dispute,  Kansas-based Sprint agreed to license Vonage its portfolio of more than 100 patents on connecting calls between a regular telephone network and a packet-switched network such as the internet.

The $80m that Vonage agreed to pay to Sprint consists of $35m for past use of the patents, $40m for a fully paid future licence, and a $5m prepayment for services.

Some analysts believe the settlement with Sprint Nextel increases the likelihood that Vonage will reach a similar deal with Verizon Communications, which has also won a patent suit against Vonage.

Earlier this year another jury awarded Verizon $58m in damages and ordered Vonage to pay 5.5 per cent royalties on future revenues after finding that the company violated three Verizon patents.

Litigation in that case continues.
A settlement with Verizon would pave the way for Vonage management to focus on cutting costs and refining its business model.Vonage had set aside $146m to settle the two patent defeats. It has $197m in cash left from its IPO when it raised almost $500m.

Источник: Financial Times

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