Joltid Fires New Salvo in Lawsuit Against Volpi

In a post last night, I considered — among other things — whether eBay could feasibly develop its own code to replace peer-to-peer (P2P) software from Joltid.

Doing so would achieve two objectives for eBay: it would keep Skype online, and it would enable it and Skype’s new investors to move forward with a $1.9-billion deal.

I also mentioned the increasingly biter relationship between Joltid’s principals, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, and Michael Volpi, who served as CEO and chairman of their video-sharing company Joost. He also served on Skype’s board during tenure at Cisco, where he was best known for his M&A dealmaking prowess.

He is now a partner at venture-capital firm Index Ventures, which is one of parties that hopes to acquire a majority percentage of Skype from its current owner, eBay. There lies the rub, as far as Zennstrom and Friis are concerned.

Presumably after completing their investigation into Volpi’s actions during his tenure as CEO and as chairman Joost, Zennstrom and Friis have come out swinging, filing yet another lawsuit that complicates eBay’s Skype deal.

This new instance of litigation was filed in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware against Volpi and Index Ventures. A press release from Joost summarizes the lawsuit concisely:

The lawsuit alleges breach of fiduciary duty against Volpi, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty against Index, interference with prospective business advantage, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract against Index, breach of confidence, and civil conspiracy. The suit seeks an injunction requiring the defendants to return to the plaintiffs all documents and files containing confidential information that the lawsuit alleges was misappropriated from Joost, and enjoining the defendants from making any use of the alleged misappropriated trade secrets, among other things.

We can only wonder at what underlies the legal salvos and litigious maneuverings. We don’t know what alleged breaches of fiduciary duty Joltid and Joost are ascribing to Volpi. We don’t know what “documents and files containing confidential information” or “missappropriated trade secrets” Volpi and Index are alleged to have purloined from Joost.

Could it all have something to do with the Joltid peer-to-peer software that is essential to Skype and is at the core of the preexisting licensing dispute between Joltid and eBay? If that were the case, it might explain why eBay seems reasonably confident about developing software that could be replace the Skype code it licenses from Joltid.

Whatever the facts that underlie the fracas, the conflict is intensifying.

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