Well kids, it looks like it’s come down to official legal charges. Again. That is to say, Skype (news, site) founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström are suing eBay for what they claim is a violation of their license agreement and copyright infringement.
Though Friis and Zennstrom insist they are not seeking to halt it, we’re guessing that this new development doesn’t exactly help eBay’s recent arrangement to sell the Internet telephony platform.
Skype’s Sad Story
eBay bought Skype from Friis and Zennström back in ‘05 for US$ 2.6 billion, but the founders hung on to rights over the key peer-to-peer technology under the name of their company, Joltid. The purchase was backed by eBay’s dreams of boosting their e-commerce to all new heights via real-time chat. Unfortunately, as it turns out, shoppers feel very little need to communicate with sellers.
"Skype is a strong standalone business, but it does not have synergies with our e-commerce and online payments businesses," said eBay President and CEO John Donahoe.
Accordingly, eBay originally sought to get more bang for their buck by launching Skype as an entirely separate, publicly listed company, but that’s when Joltid stepped forward and said: oh no you’re not!
Friis and Zennström claim their source code is being misused, and that every time Skype is downloaded or used in the U.S., their copyright is being infringed. eBay's recent answer: “Their allegations and claims are without merit and are founded on fundamental legal and factual errors.”
Tough Times for eBay
The defendants include members of the private investor group that planned to purchase 65% of Skype later this year: Silver Lake Partners, Index Ventures Management, Andreessen Horowitz LLC, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Even though Joltid isn’t directly aiming at halting the sale, at this point it would be unwise to expect it go through. What’s even worse: a possible US$ 300 million termination fee is floating around on eBay’s end, should the deal fall through.
Uglier and Uglier
To add insult to injury, Mike Volpi was removed from the Joost chairman position last week. Volpi was on Skype’s board when it was just a wee startup, then was asked to help run Friis and Zennstro’s video platform, Joost. Coincidentally, this summer Volpi joined Index Ventures, part of the group that won the bid for Skype. Red flag? According to Friis and Zennstrom, yes.
The founders went after Volpi specifically in the suit, and word around the way is that he is now being 'investigated.'
Though we originally said Skype fans would have at least until June 2010 to panic and or freak out, this new suit may mean Skype's D-Day is closer than we expected. Take a deep breath and keep watch here.