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Skype founders sue eBay in license brawl

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The founders of Skype sued eBay for copyright infringement almost two weeks after it agreed to sell a majority stake in the voice over IP business for $2bn.

Joltid, which is owned by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, filed suit in Northern California US District Court over peer-to-peer technology included in Skype software, according to court documents. The company has been locked in a tense dispute with eBay since March, when it accused the online auctioneer of breaching a licensing deal between the two companies.

The complaint seeks infringement damages in excess of $75m per day. It also requests a court order barring Skype from using the technology in the future. Skype has used Joltid's copyrighted code without permission since March, when a license between Skype and eBay was terminated, lawyers for Joltid wrote in the document.

A spokesman for eBay said company lawyers had not yet seen the complaint.

The dispute is likely to complicate eBay's plans to sell 65 percent of Skype to a group of private investors, which agreed to pay $1.9bn and a $125m note in exchange for the majority stake. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission after the deal was struck, eBay warned no settlement had been reached in the dispute.

Joltid's claims center around peer-to-peer technology called GI, or Global Index, software, which the complaint contends fully belongs to the Skype founders through a series of copyrights and patents. In 2007, about two years after they sold Skype to eBay for $2.6bn, the founders learned the buyers had "acquired unauthorized versions of the GI Software source code" and that they "created unauthorized modifications" to it for newer Skype versions and also disclosed it to "third persons."

The software "creates a self-organizing and self-healing distributed storage, transportation and data object management system that eliminates the costs of traditional datacenter solutions and enables a range of applications from communications to broadcasting and beyond.

The complaint also names the firms that agreed to buy the Skype stake, including Silver Lake, Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. ®

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