Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Skype faces legal proceedings

Skype could be facing a rough month of March, as per the recent 10-K filing (page 32-33). If a lawsuit is filed, we will know who (and which technology) this third party is.

Skype licenses technology underlying certain key components of its software from third parties it does not control, including the technology underlying its peer-to-peer architecture and firewall traversal technology and the video compression/decompression used to provide high video quality. Although Skype has contracts in place with its third-party technology providers, there can be no assurance that the licensed technology or other technology that we may seek to license in the future will continue to be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. The loss of, or inability to maintain, existing licenses could result in a decrease in service quality or loss of service until equivalent technology or suitable alternatives can be developed, identified, licensed and integrated. While we believe Skype generally has the ability to either extend these licenses on commercially reasonable terms or identify and obtain or develop suitable alternatives, the costs associated with licensing or developing such alternatives could be high and the technical challenge of assuring “backward compatibility” with older versions of Skype’s technology may be difficult to overcome. Any failure to maintain these licenses on commercially reasonable terms or to license or develop alternative technologies would harm Skype’s business. Skype and one of its licensors are currently attempting to resolve a dispute concerning certain key licensed technology. The parties previously entered into a “standstill agreement” to allow further time to resolve the dispute without the possibility of immediate litigation. While Skype is continuing to attempt to resolve the matter, in February 2009, Skype terminated this standstill agreement, and either party may commence a lawsuit against the other party beginning in March 2009. Although Skype is confident of its legal position, as with any litigation, there is the possibility of an adverse result if the matter is not resolved through negotiation. In such event, continued operation of Skype’s business as currently conducted would likely not be possible.
And then there are these long-standing issues (pages 41 and 42):
Skype is in the process of applying to register the Skype name as a trademark worldwide. In the EU, Skype’s application is being opposed. If these oppositions to Skype’s applications were to be successful, Skype’s ability to protect its brand against third-party infringers would be compromised. We have licensed in the past, and expect to license in the future, certain of our proprietary rights, such as trademarks or copyrighted material, to others. These licensees may take actions that diminish the value of our proprietary rights or harm our reputation.
In June 2006, Net2Phone, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (No. 06-2469) alleging that eBay Inc., Skype Technologies S.A., and Skype Inc. infringed five patents owned by Net2Phone relating to point-to-point Internet protocol. The suit seeks an injunction against continuing infringement, unspecified damages, including treble damages for willful infringement, and interest, costs, and fees. We have filed an answer and counterclaims asserting that the patents are invalid, unenforceable, and were not infringed. The parties have completed claim construction briefing and attended a pre-trial conference hearing. The claim construction hearing is set for March 2009 and the trial date is not yet set. We believe that we have meritorious defenses and intend to defend ourselves vigorously.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Am I imagining it or is someone running a campaign against Skype? So many negative and picky articles doing the rounds.

It just maybe that the old guard is putting in the boot while they still can. The upstart has become too popular and looks like becoming a threat.