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Archive for September, 2009

A couple of weeks after eBay agreed to sell 65% of Skype to a group of investors, the founders of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, contrived to gatecrash eBay’s party. Joltid, a company in which the two Skype founders are stakeholders, filed a copyright lawsuit on Wednesday against Skype. Skype’s founders retained control over the peer-to-peer technology at the VoIP client’s core even after selling Skype to eBay for $2.6 billion. They had agreed to license the source code to eBay.

Joltid has accused eBay of unlawfully modifying and sharing the source code. An adverse decision could even force eBay to shut down Skype until it can come up with an alternative version. The San Jose-based internet company has said that it is making arrangements to face any such eventuality. However, the presence of a contingency plan should not be construed as a lack of confidence on its part. “We remain on track to close the transaction in the fourth quarter of 2009,” an eBay spokesperson said.

Analyst Jeffrey Lindsay of Sanford C. Bernstein believes he has pinned down Joltid’s real motive behind the lawsuit. According to Jeffrey, Joltid is still smarting from its failed bid to buy back Skype earlier this year. And that it now wants to preclude the sale of Skype until it is presented with “a financial settlement or the opportunity to buy the business back themselves at a lower price than Silver Lake, et al are offering."

This lawsuit is an extension of Joltid’s legal onslaught against eBay – and Skype’s potential buyers. It fired the first salvo in March, when it filed a similar case against eBay in a London court.

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Continuing our coverage of announcements coming out from IT Expo West held last week, Dash Carrier Services (DASH a provider of wholesale carrier voice solutions, announced that it would provide E911 emergency service solutions for Gizmo5. Gizmo5 offers VoIP services to both consumers and businesses from any computer with either browser access or with IP phones. Gizmo is also interoperable with Google Voice.
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According to the New York Times, Ebay today is expected to announce a deal to sell off Skype to a group of private investors, which are likely to include Andreessen Horowitz, a new venture capital firm spearheaded by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen. At least two other investors are said to be part of the group.

If it happens, the sale will mark the end of a rather uneventful four-year run since Ebay acquired Skype in 2005. All told, Ebay has forked over more than $3.1 billion on the venture, much higher than what many consider the VoIP service is worth.

An interesting side-story to the potential deal is whether or not Skype’s founders — Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Fiis — are involved. The two developers had approached private equity firms earlier this year and hoped to make a bid for their old company, but Ebay wanted more than what was being offered. No price has been disclosed on the potential deal now being reported, although Skype has said it wants in the neighborhood of $2 billion.

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