Sprint sues Comcast, Time Warner Cable and others over VoIP patents

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) sued Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Cable One for patent infringement, alleging in a lawsuit that the MSOs are violating 12 of Sprint's patents.

Sprint filed the lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., and alleged that the companies are 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.

Representatives from all of the cable companies declined to comment, according to Bloomberg.

Although Sprint has sued other companies in the past for violating its VoIP patents, the timing of the lawsuits against the cable companies is notable. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) recently said it will pay the SpetrcumCo venture made up of Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks $3.6 billion for AWS spectrum. Verizon will also resell the cable companies' services and the MSOs can become MNVOs of Verizon Wireless. Verizon also said it will pay $316 million for Cox's AWS spectrum and struck a similar reselling deal.

The cable companies' teaming with Verizon is a reversal from their previous wireless dealings. Until 2008, Sprint and several cable companies worked on a wireless resale agreement under the "Pivot" brand. And for the past several years, Comcast, Time Warner and others have resold WiMAX service from Clearwire.

Some of the patents that Sprint is asserting in this new case include ones that were at issue in a similar case against Vonage. Vonage agreed to license the technology for $80 million after losing a 2007 trial. Sprint has also reached settlements over VoIP patents with smaller companies, including in 2009 with Big River Telephone and Paetec Holdings.

In 2010, Time Warner decided to end its wholesale VoIP relationship with Sprint and offer its own services, which cost Sprint around $10 to $11 per subscriber per month. 

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Multichannel News article

Related Articles:
Verizon to buy SpectrumCo's AWS spectrum for $3.6B
Verizon to buy Cox's AWS spectrum for $315M
TWC will do its own VoIP
Sprint settles VoIP patent disputes