The TEM market was caught by surprise last week when Asentinel announced the company had filed a patent infringement complaint against AnchorPoint, Cass Information Systems and Veramark. It appears that Asentinel targeted publicly traded TEM companies for its first filing. None of the TEM companies targeted by Asentinel are known to hold TEM -specific patents although Veramark does maintain intellectual property related to call accounting.
Asentinel is seeking damages and injunctive relief for infringement of its patents related to Telecommunications Expense Management (TEM). When I asked about the suit in an email, Asentinel CEO David Perdue responded:
“Since the founding of Asentinel, we have invested significant resources to build an industry-leading TEM product, Asentinel 6.0. We long ago recognized the value behind our innovative TEM approach, and developed a formidable patent portfolio to protect our ideas. Through the legal action we are taking, we are seeking to protect our customers and partners from infringers in the marketplace, and we will vigorously enforce our patent rights to achieve these goals”.
Asentinel’s complaint is good for the market.
The market is fractured and hyper-competitive. Asentinel’s actions could force the market to determine leadership positions in terms of intellectual property (IP) and platforms. Asentinel is not assured a leadership position but the company deserves credit for defending its IP.
Too many TEM companies, and there are hundreds, are wasting capital by developing the underlying TEM application upon which telecom-related business processes are automated and managed. Unfortunately, many of these applications are built by companies whose executives, and legacy business model, bring minimal application development experience to bear. The result is that many of these companies are producing applications that are barely competitive in terms of architecture and functionality.
Most TEM companies would fare much better in the market if they would streamline their cost structures by OEMing 3rd party TEM applications and then compete in the market based on their differentiated sales operations and service excellence.
I’m not confident many TEM companies will take this approach. A TEM process outsourcing vendor without its own application base is not likely to secure external funding. Additionally, many TEM companies still believe they will be acquired for 10x revenue from a large Outsourcer or CSP. Acquisition is coming, just not at those multiples.
Until then, we’ll have to pay careful attention to the Asentinel complaint.
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