VOIP services

Open Season on Cable

Apparently Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)’s cable operator hunting license hasn't expired yet. After taking aim at Cox Communications Inc. last month with a lawsuit alleging VOIP patent infringement, this week Verizon opened fire on Charter Communications Inc. . (See Verizon Sues Cox and Verizon Sues Charter Over VOIP Patents.)

News of the suit helped to drive Charter's stock price down to a new low of $0.92 per share. It seems you no longer need to watch Animal Planet to witness a predator stalking a weak member of the herd.

Verizon opted against directly suing Charter's controlling shareholder, billionaire Paul Allen, nor placing a lien on one of his mega-yachts. (See Charting a New Course .)

Verizon's gambit is, of course, little more than an attempt to squash residential voice competition. (See Patently Absurd.) It's a shame that the patent process, which is intended to reward and foster genuine innovation, is yet again being used to stifle it.

MSOs are undoubtedly busy investigating how many cable television patents Verizon may be infringing through its FiOS TV service rollout. Frivolous lawsuits seem to attract more of the same.

— Michael Harris, Chief Analyst, Cable Digital News

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