Sprint Opens Lawsuit Over Alleged VoIP Trade Secret Theft

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Sprint Corp. has now reportedly opened a new lawsuit against two former executives, alleging that the former employees stole VoIP patents and trade secrets. The former workers are listed in the court documents as Paul Woelk and Craig Cowden.

The property misappropriated primarily centers around VoIP technologies that the long-time employees had direct access to. For clarity, those are technologies used in making calls directly over internet protocols.

The Sprint lawsuit involves no fewer than three telecommunications companies. Those are companies the executives are claimed to have worked with to steal the information. The companies in question are Charter, Bright House, Time Warner Cable. The latter two companies are now owned by Charter Communications Inc under the umbrella of the companies "Spectrum" branding.

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What evidence is there that the former Sprint employees stole VoIP trade secrets and IP?

Sprint first accuses Mr. Woelk and Mr. Cowden of disclosing confidential information to Bright House while they were still under employment with the company.

After handing over that information, the two proceeded to leave Sprint and took employment at Bright House. The former executives took further trade secrets and IP with them when they left, Sprint claims. But there is fairly strong evidence in this particular case well beyond the claims themselves.

Last fall, the court documents explained, Charter was forced to notify Sprint about findings on Mr. Woelk's work computer.

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Specifically, there were approximately 3,500 such documents discovered on the Charter-owned machine. Those were stored in a folder, the suit claims, that was titled "Sprint My Documents." Charter refers to those documents as "Sprint documents with no legitimate reason to be at Charter." Mr. Woelk presently holds a position as the company's vice president of business operations.

No details regarding the exact nature of the intellectual property found on Mr. Woelk's computer have been reported. But the evidence here does seem to point to a fairly strong case for Sprint, which has historically done well in the courts.

What repercussions could stem from this case?

Specifics regarding the possible outcome of the case have not been disclosed either. However, this will likely be significant for Sprint before it is absorbed by T-Mobile if the documentation holds its weight in court. According to Sprint, the VoIP networking industry grew substantially from the time the IP and trade secrets were established through today. The VoIP industry is a "$100 billion-plus industry," Sprint says.

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As a result, Sprint was potentially put out by a sum amounting to billions of dollars. The carrier claims that the misappropriation caused Sprint to lose customers. It also cost revenue, profits, and future business it "could have used to reinvest even further in this and other emerging technologies."

Sprint could stand to net a sizable amount of money from the case if it wins. That would be a blow to Charter and subsidiary carriers' Spectrum brand. But a win would also be a windfall for Sprint since the carrier agreed to sell off a significant portion of its own assets in order to push the merger with T-Mobile through.