Skype, eBay win patent case on appeal

A federal appeals court has found eBay and Skype have not infringed on two peer-to-peer patents held by Peer Communication, according to Skype’s general counsel.

Peer Communications is part of Acacia Technologies, of Newport Beach, California, which specializes in licensing and enforcing patents in its portfolio.

Peer Communications filed the case in August 2006 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The court ruled in favor of Skype and eBay, but the case then went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, wrote Robert Miller, Skype’s general counsel, on a company blog.

The two patents are closely related. They deal with “a uniform user interface for network access that can enable a network agent to access multiple discrete network services,” according to court filings. The technology contributes to a system that allows groups of loosely interconnected agents to communicate contemporaneously without intermediaries such as a servers and to exchange data.

The patent litigation is likely a small blip on Skype’s legal radar following its spinoff in September from eBay. In September, the auction giant announced it reached an agreement to sell 65 percent of Skype to a group of private investors for $1.9 billion.

Shortly after the announcement, Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom filed a copyright infringement suit in California against Skype, eBay, Silver Lake Partners and others investors involved in the deal. They argue that when eBay bought Skype in 2005, the acquisition did not include Skype’s peer-to-peer networking technology, which is owned by Joltid and was licensed to Skype. Joltid is owned by Friis and Zennstrom.

About three weeks ago, Skype’s founders filed another suit in Delaware against Michaelangelo Volpi and Index Ventures Management, one of the investment companies involved in Skype's latest sale. Volpi used to work for Joost, a Web video site also owned by Friis and Zennstrom. The lawsuit accuses Volpi of misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of confidence. Volpi now works for Index Ventures.

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