Vonage May Get Stay Of Execution

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A landmark Supreme Court decision may prove to be the savior of Vonage. The ruling on "obviousness" is expected to have sweeping implications in patent law while pulling Vonage from the Verizon fire.

Vonage May Get Stay Of Execution
Vonage May Get Stay Of Execution

Under the decision, patents will be more easily challengeable based existing, ordinary circumstances, or obvious need or improvement. While that’s good news for new businesses, especially new businesses being hammered by behemoth corporations in court, it’s bad news for a slew of patent-holders.

The Court believes the reverse stifles innovation and clogs up the court system with bogus filings. Though expected to slow down the system initially, as questionable patents are cleaned out, the ruling is also expected to speed things up in the long run.

In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress and may, in the case of patents combining previously known elements, deprive prior inventions of their value or utility.

Vonage recently lost a devastating dispute with Verizon that found the VoIP company in violation of three patents. Though a subsequent ruling allowed Vonage to continue signing up new customers while the appeals process was underway, Vonage was in danger of complete shutdown.

The day after the judgment was issued, Vonage filed with the US Court of Appeals, hoping for a new trial. The company’s legal head cites the decision as protection against being sued for improving on a previous invention. Verizon, as expected, disagrees, saying the appeal is just "a delaying tactic."

"This certainly is opportunistic of Vonage, but it will be interesting to see how the courts react to this request," writes TechDirt president and CEO Mike Masnick. "In the meantime, expect many more cases along these lines in the near future."

One of those cases, Masnick might predict, could involve Amazon’s patent on counting pages. Judging from the way it’s written, Amazon’s patent lawyers got this one through by lulling the USPTO into cyclical slumber. Even the Abstract’s too long.

Vonage May Get Stay Of Execution
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