We've now got the spectre of a good old fashioned patent fight on our hands as Andy "Scoop" Abramson publishes the details of a decade old 3COM patent that may read on the current Verizon / Vonage dispute.
And that's why patents, kiddies, are so important to startups. As Suzie Dingwall Williams recently wrote, the patent system now consists of multiple overlapping monopolies, rather than the clear cut monopolies of yore. Just 'cause you have a patent doesn't mean the other guy doesn't have one. It's a bit like the cold war days with each side stock piling warheads as a "deterrent" to the other side.
What happens next, of course, completely depends on what 3COM wants to do. If 3COM has a patent, though, chances are there's somebody else who has one too… Verizon may have opened an unappetizing can of worms after all, rather than a tasty Vonage fricasee.