Sprint Settles VoIP Patent Lawsuit With Big River

Sprint Nextel and Big River Telephone Co. have settled Sprint's litigation alleging the telecommunications provider infringed six patents related to voice over Internet Protocol systems.

The financial terms of the settlement are confidential. The agreement, announced Thursday, will allow Cape Girardeau, Mo.-based Big River Telephone to continue to provide telephony services to small cable operators.

Sprint had sued Big River Telephone, as well as Nuvox Communications, BroadVOX Holdings and Paetec Communications, in January 2008, alleging infringement of six patents owned by Sprint relating to voice-over-packet communications systems. Sprint previously settled with the three other telecommunications companies.

In addition, in 2007, Sprint won a patent-infringement judgment against Vonage Holdings, which paid Sprint $80 million in a settlement.

Sprint provides voice-over-IP services to cable operators including Time Warner Cable and Mediacom Communications.

Big River Telephone, in addition to delivering residential and commercial phone and data services, provides back-office support and service to cable operators including NewWave Communications, Metrocast, US Cable, Allegiance Communications and Eagle Communications. It serves cable companies in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Minnesota, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Wyoming, according to its Web site.

"Sprint was intent on seeking an injunction to preserve its competitive position as a leader in providing cable VoP [voice over packet] solutions; however, we are pleased that we were able to enter into an agreement that allowed Big River to be licensed so that it can continue to service its existing customers and smaller cable operations," Sprint vice president of intellectual property Harley Ball said in a statement

Under the terms of the settlement, Big River Telephone will pay Sprint for a nonexclusive license to Sprint's voice-over-packet patent portfolio -- which includes more than 120 U.S. patents as well as international patents -- to allow Big River to provide services to predefined cable companies. The Sprint patents cover systems, components and methods for carrying voice traffic over a packet-based network, such as the Internet, including those for telecommunications systems offered in conjunction with cable TV and high-speed Internet services.

"We are glad to put this litigation behind us and return our attention to providing our clients with excellent telecommunication services," Big River Telephone CEO Jerry Howe said in a statement. "We are pleased to be a licensee of Sprint's patents and look forward to providing our services under the protection of this portfolio."