Skip to main content

Jury orders Time Warner Cable to pay $139M for infringing on Sprint patents

sprint ericsson gigabit mwc 2017 store headquarters hq building sign logo
Paul Jantz/123rf
In 2011, Sprint sued Time Warner Cable, now part of Charter Communications, for infringing on lawsuits related to voice over internet protocol (VoIP), a method of relaying telephone calls as internet-bound digital traffic. The past six years have been chock full of back-and-forth legal wrangling but the carrier’s patience has finally paid off. On Monday, a jury in Sprint’s home district of Kansas City, Missouri, ordered Time Warner Cable to pay $139.8 million for violating the former’s intellectual property, according to Bloomberg news.

Things could get worse for Charter. The U.S. District Court for District of Kansas jury found that Time Warner Cable “willfully infringed” on Sprint’s patents with its digital home phone and business class phone services, putting the company on the line for potentially triple the amount of damages.

Charter plans to appeal. “We are disappointed with the outcome and are considering our options,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg News.

Sprint’s lawsuit stems from a series accusing Cox, Comcast, and Cable One of violating the same VoIP patents at issue in the Time Warner Cable case.

Comcast fought the charges, filing a successful countersuit against Sprint. In 2014, Sprint was ordered to pay $7.5 million to Comcast, a verdict that an appeals court affirmed in January.

The Cox case was initially thrown out by a Delaware judge, but that decision was overruled on appeal. Sprint’s lawsuit against Cable One, meanwhile, was stayed in 2015.

Cable providers aren’t the only companies in Sprint’s legal crosshairs. The carrier won $80 million from Vonage in a 2007 settlement, and soon after an undisclosed amount from telecommunications company Paetec Holding Corp. In 2008, Sprint extracted payments from small VoIP providers like Nuvox (now Windstream), Broadvox Holdings, and Big River Telephone Company.

Sprint’s VoIP lawsuits credit discoveries by an employee named Joe Christie for a “sea change in telephony,” but as Ars Technica notes, the carrier’s role in the development of VoIP isn’t particularly distinguishable. The first digital voice packets were sent over ARPAnet, a government-funded precursor to the internet, in 1973. And Speak Freely, one of the first widely used software applications for VoIP, was published as public domain software in 1991.

But historically, that has not stopped Sprint and others from filing lawsuits left and right. On the heels of the success of Vonage, a VoIP provider credited with popularizing the technology, telecommunication companies like AT&T and Verizon took the internet-based competitor to court, arguing that VoIP patents played a crucial role in the services’ development. Vonage settled a suit with AT&T in 2009 for $39 million, and one with Verizon the same year.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
Time Warner Cable in robo-trouble after customer is awarded $229,500 for robocalls
time warner cable la dodgers

Time Warner Cable often issues so-called "robocalls" to customers who are late paying bills. Unfortunately for Irving, Texas resident Araceli King, she received 153 of these calls in less than a year, even though she wasn't late paying her bills, reports Reuters.

Last March, King sued the company over the constant robocalls. The calls were intended for one Luiz Perez, who once had King's current cellphone number. King called a Time Warner Cable representative in the hopes of clearing things up. However, the robocalls -- made through what the company calls an "interactive voice response" system -- didn't stop, leading King to sue the company.

Read more
Time Warner Cable is America’s least favorite company
time warner cable complaints 970x0

As difficult as it may be to get nearly half the country to agree on any single issue, Time Warner Cable has achieved the seemingly impossible, uniting Americans in frustration with their cable and Internet services. According to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, Time Warner ranked dead last not only among cable companies, but of all companies providing any service in the entire survey. 

With a disastrous rating of 51 out of 100 (meaning that only 51 out of every 100 people said they were satisfied with their TWC service), the company led the ongoing race to the bottom in America's most hated industry.

Read more
Time Warner Cable may have found a buyer in French telecom Altice
time warner cable complaints 970x0

If telecommunications firm Altice has its way, Time Warner Cable may not have to shop around for a buyer much longer. The French group has "held talks" with the service provider about a potential buyout, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters confirm.  Separately, Altice is said to be close to acquiring independent cable operator Suddenlink.

Should the deals go through, they'd grant Altice a substantial foothold in the U.S. broadband market. St. Louis-based Suddenlink, which is the seventh largest cable company in the country, has around 1.4 million customers spread out mostly across the South -- states like Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. Time Warner Cable, meanwhile, is the second largest cable provider in the U.S., and commands large metropolitan markets such as New York and Los Angeles. The company had 15.2 million subscribers as of Q1 2015.

Read more