On March 3, 2017, a Kansas federal jury awarded nearly $140 million in damages to Sprint after finding Time Warner Cable (“TWC”) infringed patents on Sprint’s Voice-over-Internet Protocol (“VoIP”). VoIP has become more attractive as Internet companies try to compete with the telecom companies. The cable companies are offering VoIP via their existing data lines, which are also designed to provide TV and Internet services.
As one of the first providers of telecom over the Internet, Sprint has a number of patents which afford them a monopoly right in this type of technology. Recently, Sprint has been able to profit from these patents with patent litigation and patent licensing of its VoIP technology, but there is no shortage of competitive patent applications for VoIP.
In a patent lawsuit, patent attorneys may argue literal infringement or non-literal infringement under a legal theory referred to as doctrine of equivalents (“DoE”). Literal infringement is when each element of the claim is present in the infringing device. DoE is used when every element is not literally present, but equivalent results can be achieved through a similar structure providing the same functionality. In Sprint’s patent infringement award, the jury found that each of the patents were valid and infringed. Specifically, the jury found each patent claim at issue was infringed either literally or under DoE. Because the jury found TWC’s patent infringement to be willful, the judge could triple the $140M damages awarded.
Sprint has filed additional infringement claims against other cable companies, including a suit against Comcast currently set to appear before the same judge.
Questions regarding patent licensing or patent infringement? Contact our office at 913.345.0900.