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Verizon Sues Cox Over Voice Patents

Verizon Communications, after winning a patent-infringement decision against Vonage Holdings last year, has trained its legal guns on cable’s phone services with a similar lawsuit against Cox Communications.

The telephone company’s suit, filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges Cox infringes eight patents related to delivering phone service over data communications networks. Verizon seeks unspecified monetary damages and wants Cox to be blocked from using the patents in the future.

Cox director of media relations David Grabert declined to comment.

Apart from the Cox lawsuit, the phone company has not initiated patent-related litigation against other cable companies. Verizon executive director of media relations David Fish declined to comment on why Verizon specifically chose to sue Cox.

The action comes after a federal appeals court affirmed Vonage infringed two of Verizon’s patents. In October, Vonage said it would pay Verizon up to $120 million to settle the suit.

Vonage also was the target of suits by AT&T and Sprint, both of which were settled out of court.

Frank Dzubeck, president of consulting firm Communications Network Architects, said the rest of the cable industry will be closely watching Verizon’s suit against Cox.

“If Cox is found to be infringing on these patents, then the entire cable industry is guilty of infringing on them,” he said. “You will have a lot of friend-of-the-court briefs taking place.”

The eight patents Verizon cited in the Cox suit include the two Vonage was found to have infringed: U.S. Patent No. 6,104,711, for an “Enhanced Internet domain name server” to translate information from a public, packet-based network; and 6,282,574, “Method, server and telecommunications system for name translation on a conditional basis and/or to a telephone number,” an extension of the earlier patent.

Cox, though, is better positioned to defend itself than Vonage, Dzubeck said: “Suing Vonage, which is a company that’s economically not necessarily in the best of shape, is one thing. Taking on Cox is another … This is the 900-pound gorilla taking on the 750-pound gorilla.”

Verizon’s other claims against Cox concerned patents covering quality of service for a communications session, enhanced signaling, network session management, and inter-carrier signaling for connectivity between packet-based and circuit-switched networks.