Monday, April 13, 2009

Skype's Founders to eBay -- $3.1 Billion Ain't Enough to Own Our I.P.

Skype's founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, are reported to be cobbling together a consortium to buy-back their baby.  Zennstrom and Friis -- who began their careers founding file-sharing service Kazaa and as bandits in the minds of the music labels (although the same major media companies have since embraced them in their Joost incarnation) -- now are up to new shenanigans as they apparently hope to pay less than $2 billion after being paid $3.1 billion by eBay a few years back.  That would be a nice sleight of hand, since Skype is actually generating substantial revenues now and the overall Skype customer base is approximately 7X what it was at the time of sale.

How could they be in the driver's seat?  Apparently, Zennstrom and Friis are biting the hand that feeds -- and, that strategy actually may pay off!  The two founders have terminated a licensing agreement between eBay and one of their companies, Joltid (how many companies do these guys run while they hold down their full time jobs?).  And, the New York Times reports that this dispute centers around the same peer-to-peer technology that is at the heart of Skype.  Yes, that's right -- eBay/Skype's core I.P. may be at risk even though eBay paid $3.1 billion for it!  (at least, Skype's founders apparently believe that their core P2P I.P. would be violated in the hands of anyone but themselves). 

And if that spectre of clouded I.P. isn't enough to dissuade other would-be Skype suitors, then maybe the Kazaa cavalry will be sicked upon them!