Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) won a $7.5 million award against Sprint (NYSE:S) after a jury agreed that Sprint violated Comcast's patents for VoIP and other telecommunications technologies. The trial and the ruling is likely going to be just one of many in a long, drawn-out legal battle between the one-time partners.
"Comcast is entitled to a royalty" for the patent infringement, Matthew Lehr, a lawyer for Comcast, told jurors at the end of the trial in Delaware, according to Bloomberg.
The jury made its decision based on more than a dozen claims of infringement. Comcast had initially asked for $16.5 million in damages, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.
"Sprint does not infringe" on the three patents in question, Sprint lead lawyer, Brian Riopelle, said in his closing argument.
"We are disappointed and we expect to challenge this verdict," Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge Walsh said in a statement sent to multiple news outlets. "We remain convinced that Sprint has not infringed any valid, enforceable patent claims of the asserted patents. Comcast filed this case after Sprint filed suit in Kansas alleging infringement of Sprint's revolutionary voice over packet technology. That Kansas case was filed against Comcast in 2011 and is expected to go to trial in 2016. Comcast is also infringing on other Sprint patents, and the first trial on other Sprint patents is scheduled in Delaware in February of 2015."
In December 2011, Sprint sued Comcast, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications and Cable One for patent infringement, alleging in a lawsuit that the MSOs were violating 12 of Sprint's patents. Sprint filed the lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., and alleged that the companies were violating VoIP patents Sprint has held since the 1990s. The companies "have realized the great value in this technology and have misappropriated it without Sprint's permission," Sprint said in each complaint.
Comcast then turned around and sued Sprint in 2012, claiming that Sprint's use of Sprint Mobile Integration, Google Voice or Sprint's Airave 2 device infringed on patents for its own call-routing technology for Internet and conventional phone lines.
An irony in the cases is that Sprint and the MSOs were once close partners. Until 2008, Sprint and several cable companies worked on a wireless resale agreement under the "Pivot" brand. After that, Comcast, Time Warner and others resold WiMAX service from Sprint partner Clearwire until they abandoned those agreements and struck a deal to resell Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) service.
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