Court rejects Vonage request for retrial

SAN FRANCISCO – A U.S. federal appeals court has rejected Vonage Holdings Corp.’s request that it order a lower court to retry a patent-infringement case against the company, Vonage confirmed Thursday.

The VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service provider, embroiled in a dispute with Verizon Communications Inc., had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to vacate an earlier jury verdict after a Supreme Court decision this week that is expected to change the way courts look at patent cases. Vonage was already appealing the verdict.

The appeals court declined to order the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to retry the case, saying instead that Vonage could invoke the Supreme Court decision in its existing appeal, said Vonage spokeswoman Brooke Shulz.

The Supreme Court ruling in the case of KSR International Co. vs. Teleflex Inc., released Monday, is expected to make it easier to invalidate new patents on the grounds that they are obvious combinations of existing inventions. Some legal experts have said the decision could affect the Vonage case.

“We believe our appeal is strong, and are pleased the Court has given us the option to use the expanded obviousness test in our arguments before them. Vonage continues to believe the original verdict was based on erroneous claim construction — meaning the patents in this case were defined in an overly broad and legally unprecedented way,” Vonage said in a prepared statement Thursday. The appeals court’s decision was the outcome Verizon expected, a company spokesman said.

Vonage’s appeal is not expected to be heard until next year. Judge Claude Hilton of the district court issued an injunction on April 6 barring the company from signing up new customers using the technology, but the appeals court has since granted Vonage a permanent stay of the injunction until its appeal has been heard.

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