Patent suit takes aim at Cisco routers, switches

A Florida company on Tuesday sued Cisco Systems for alleged patent infringement, charging the networking giant with stealing its routing technology.

ConnecTel claims Cisco is using without compensation a set of technologies that ConnecTel founder Allen Kaplan invented in the 1990s, according to a copy of the complaint provided by the company's attorney. ConnecTel filed a complaint on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, in Marshall, Texas, seeking unspecified damages and attorney's fees as well as an injunction to stop the alleged infringement.

At the heart of the complaint is an intelligent data routing system that can choose the best data path and transmission method in real time, based on multiple factors including bandwidth, availability, security and the user's priority, according to the complaint. Kaplan applied for patents on the technology in 1996, said Daniel Perez, an attorney at Winstead Sechrest & Minick.

Kaplan originally developed the technology as a way to streamline the delivery of faith-based inspirational faxes, the complaint said. He and a partner founded ConnecTel to commercialize the intelligent routing system but the company has never made products itself, choosing instead to license the technology to other companies, Perez said. ConnecTel introduced its technology to Cisco and offered the company a chance to license it, and Cisco rejected the offer only to later develop product lines that used it, according to the complaint. There are other companies licensing the technology, according to Perez, who said he could not name them for legal reasons.

The case could be far-reaching, involving possibly billions of dollars in damages, according to Perez.

"A large percentage of Cisco's routers and switches are infringing on one or more of the patents," he said. As an example he cited the Cisco AS5350 Universal Gateway, a wide-area network gateway that can provide data, voice, and fax services on any port at any time.

ConnecTel will seek a jury trial, Perez said. The case has not yet been assigned to a judge, but Perez said he is optimistic it will get to court quickly because of the track record of the Marshall court in intellectual-property cases. Last year Cisco sued Chinese equipment maker Huawei Technologies there in a case involving alleged copying and misappropriation of Cisco technology.

Cisco was unable to comment on the ConnecTel suit because it has not yet seen the complaint, according to company spokeswoman Penny Bruce.

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