As many predicted, Verizon has expanded their VoIP patent suit prowess, and now have targeted Charter Communications. This latest suit comes on the heels of a similar and ongoing VoIP patent suit against Cox, and a successful 2007 patent offensive on Vonage. Verizon clearly has cable competitors in their sights, and are using patent suits as a competitive tool to erode, stop, or at least slow down cable’s move on their core wireline voice business. Don’t expect the patent lawsuits to slow down either. Most cable companies that are using VoIP utilize the CableLabs specification for VoIP. Verizon is now targeting those specifications, so every cable company that uses them are vulnerable to a Verizon patent lawsuit. Prospective lawsuit candidates include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and a variety of tier 2 cable companies, including Mediacom. It’s unlikely that these suits will stop cable companies move on voice service. The “genie is out of the bottle” on that. But Verizon can inflict some pain on their competitors, assuming the lawsuits have merit, and either slow them down a bit or extract millions of dollars in settlements and/or licensing fees. In short, expect this issue to grow, and probably quickly.
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