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Cisco asks court to bin Rockstar patents

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Cisco has thrown on the armour and couched the lance to defend itself and its customers from the zombie Nortel patent lawsuits.

The Nortel patent portfolio, bought by the Rockstar Consortium and since partly spun out to subsidiaries Bockstar and Constellation (yes, these are the real names), has been the basis for an ongoing campaign to extract money both from vendors and from the cable companies that use their kit.

Technologies targeted in the Rockstar-Bockstar-Constellation action include a couple of dozen patents covering high-speed broadband, switched video technology, MPLS networking, Ethernet passive optical networks, and multimedia provision over IP.

As Cisco's counter-claim states, “the Known Accused Customers use Cisco products, to implement technologies, products, or services including Ethernet (including Ethernet over optical transport), whole house DVR, MoCA, the DOCSIS Standards, high speed internet (including DSL), voice over IP, digital video, managed VPN, and Layer 3 VPN.”

Customers that have copped lawyers' letters over the patents include Time Warner Cable, Windstream, Knology, WOW!, Cable One and others. Cisco says the plaintiffs refused to enter into negotiations with any of the customers they accused unless the customer signed an NDA, something which its counter-claim says “concealed the scope” of the assertions and “cast a cloud of uncertainty over Cisco's business”.

Cisco is seeking declaratory judgements on the claims against it. It's also filed this counter-suit in Delaware rather than in the patent wonderland of Texas.

The problem for the industry is that Nortel, which like most large vendors licensed its patents into standards under normal FRAND terms, no longer exists, and Rockstar and its spawn have the patents, but aren't bound by the licensing agreements. ®

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