Skype founders file copyright suit against Skype

Joltid, a company founded by Skype's developers, alleges its P2P software is being infringed upon every time someone downloads and uses the popular VoIP service.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. PDT with eBay comment.

Joltid, a peer-to-peer software company established by Skype's founders, filed a copyright suit against Skype Wednesday alleging Joltid's technology is being infringed on by Skype users "in the United States at least 100,000 times each day."

Just the latest in an ongoing license dispute between the popular VoIP service and its developers, the lawsuit, filed in Northern California U.S. District Court, seeks an injunction and damages, which Joltid "reasonably believes are amassing at a rate of $75 million daily," according to the suit.

Also listed as defendants are Skype's current owner eBay, as well as investors in a consortium that earlier this month signed a deal with eBay to acquire a 65 percent stake in Skype, with eBay retaining 35 percent.

"Skype has infringed Joltid's copyrights," a company spokesman said in a statement. "Joltid will vigorously enforce its copyrights and other intellectual property rights in all of the technologies it has innovated."

"Their allegations and claims are without merit and are founded on fundamental legal and factual errors," eBay spokesman John Pluhowski said in a statement.

The lawsuit has the potential to at least complicate the ongoing sale of Skype. In the past, however, eBay has said it's working on its own software to replace what it gets from Joltid.

In 2006, eBay bought Skype for $2.6 billion, but co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom retained the rights to Skype's key peer-to-peer technology--Global Index Software--via the Joltid company they formed.

Joltid terminated its license for the software after learning that Skype had allegedly acquired unauthorized versions of the source code, made unauthorized modifications, and disclosed the software to third persons, according to the lawsuit.

The two companies have been involved in a separate lawsuit in the U.K. over that license termination, but the case isn't set to go to trial until June 2010. Referring to that suit, eBay's SEC filing regarding the sale of Skype says "consummation of the deal was subject to 'no settlement of the pending litigation with Joltid Limited having been effected without the consent of the Buyer (subject to certain limitations).'"

The other defendants in the suit filed Wednesday are Silver Lake Partners, Index Ventures Management, Michaelangelo Volpi, Andreessen Horowitz, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. This lawsuit was first reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.

About the author

Michelle Meyers, associate editor, has been writing and editing CNET News stories since 2005. But she's still working to shed some of her old newspaper ways, first honed when copy was actually cut and pasted. When she's not fixing typos and tightening sentences, she's working with reporters on story ideas, tracking media happenings, or freshening up CNET News' home page.


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