Cisco beats patent infringement claims

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Cisco Systems, the internet equipment maker, said on Tuesday that a US federal jury threw out a patent infringement case brought against it by Storage Technology, marking the latest in a series of recent victories for high-profile defendants accused of patent infringement.

Storage Technology, the data storage equipment maker being bought by Sun Microsystems for $4.1bn, claimed Cisco used patented technology in its routers, devices that direct data across the internet.

Storage Technology, also known as StorageTek, had initially sought up to $3bn in damages from Cisco but subsequently lowered its claim to $322m. The lawsuit, filed in 1999, was heard in a US district court for northern California in San Francisco.

The verdict marks the third recent patent infringement decision in favour of a high profit defendant. A landmark $521m patent-infringement judgment against Microsoft, the software giant, was overturned by a US appeals court in March and remanded back to a lower court for re-examination.

That decision stemmed from a US court ruling in 2003 that Microsoft had infringed a patent covering a core piece of internet browser technology. The patent governs the way browsers can be used to launch software “plug-ins”, which make it possible for users to handle applications like Adobe's Acrobat document reader from inside a browser.

Also in March, a US federal judge threw out another patent claim brought by chipmaker Rambus against Infineon Technologies, the German chipmaker.

Tyler Ochoa, an intellectual property lawyer at Santa Clara University, said plaintiffs have traditionally been perceived to have an advantage in IP infringement cases.

The number of these cases has surged over the past decade, particularly those involving so-called “patent trolls,” companies that don't manufacture products and acquire patents with intent of collecting damages from rivals that are allegedly infringing on the patent.

Other intellectual property lawyers, however, noted that the number of such cases has leveled off in the past few years because technology groups have become more aggressive in defending their patents.

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