A subsidiary of Sprint Nextel yesterday sued three Internet telephone providers, claiming they're infringing on Sprint's patents. Sprint Communications, based in...

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A subsidiary of Sprint Nextel yesterday sued three Internet telephone providers, claiming they’re infringing on Sprint’s patents.

Sprint Communications, based in Overland Park, Kan., is seeking an injunction against Vonage, VoiceGlo and theglobe.com, and unspecified damages.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Kansas, claims the three companies are using technology developed by Sprint as far back as 2001 that processes voice calls into packets of data and delivers them over the Web, similar to e-mail. The industry often calls the technology “Voice over Internet Protocol,” or VoIP.

The suit doesn’t explain how the companies are violating the patents, but company spokeswoman Debra Peterson said, “We’ve been trying to work with these companies for more than a year.”

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With more than 1 million customers, Vonage is the country’s largest provider of Internet-based telephone service. A spokeswoman for the company didn’t immediately return a phone call yesterday.

VoiceGlo is a subsidiary of theglobe.com, which also owns a computer-based direct-marketing service, a computer-games-distribution business and publishes Computer Games Magazine.

Ed Cespedes, president for both companies, said he felt confident VoiceGlo is not infringing on Sprint’s technology.

“Either they don’t understand our business or they’re trying to say all VoIP is violating their patents,” Cespedes said.

Peterson said she couldn’t comment about the company’s dealings with other VoIP providers.

Sprint Nextel provides VoIP to businesses such as cable companies that sell it to consumers, rather than selling directly to residential customers, spokesman Scott Stoffel said. The company, created in last month’s purchase of Nextel, trails Cingular Wireless and Verizon Wireless in subscribers.

VoiceGlo, with 5 million users worldwide, distributes computer software that allows online phone calls. Theglobe.com competes with larger Skype Technologies, the company being bought by eBay.

Vonage provides devices that are attached to computers to allow the calls. The company is considering an initial public offering.

Information on each company’s specific offerings provided by Bloomberg News.