Cisco issues legal challenge to Huawei, tiptoes US-China dispute

Huawei has found itself in the crosshairs of Cisco's legal team, just as the US company breaks ties with Chinese telecommunications manufacturer ZTE.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Comments by Huawei senior vice president Charles Ding last month have sparked Cisco into action, when he claimed that previous litigation during 2003 and 2004 was unjustified.

The former lawsuit involved a claim by Cisco that Huawei had stolen its source code and reused it in Huawei products.

"In fact, within a few months of filing suit, Cisco obtained a worldwide injunction against sale by Huawei of products, including our code for a Cisco-proprietary routing protocol called EIGRP, and Huawei publicly admitted that the code had been used in their products and they pledged to stop," Cisco's senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary Mark Chandler wrote on the company's blog.

But Ding's comments paint a different picture of what happened. According to Chandler, Ding recently told the public: "when Cisco sued Huawei for intellectual property rights infringement ... at that time, Huawei provided our source code of our products to Cisco for review, and the results were that there was not any infringement found, and in the end Cisco withdrew the case."

Expert reports produced as part of the lawsuit were, at the time, covered by a confidentiality agreement. But earlier this month, Chandler said that Cisco is willing to waive the agreement and let Huawei back itself up with the reports that Cisco said show what really happened.

Today, that invitation has still not been taken up by the Chinese company, and Chandler has reissued the challenge.

"We urge Huawei to publish the full Neutral Expert's Final Report in order to clarify what actually happened in the litigation, overcome any confusion, and demonstrate their purported transparent business practices and respect for intellectual property rights," he wrote today.

Huawei was unable to respond to ZDNet's request for comment at the time of writing.

Chandler was quick to point out that its actions against Huawei had nothing to do with the ongoing souring relationship between the US and China, instead taking the moment to commend the Chinese government.

"The litigation was between two private companies, not between governments. It's not about the US or China, and we respect the efforts the Chinese government is making to increase intellectual property protection."

Of course, maintaining a good relationship with China is an important move for Cisco, as it is currently attempting to expand its market share in the country.

He also shot down any resemblance that the case may have to the various patent cases that are ongoing between companies such as Apple and Samsung.

"Unlike the smartphone patent battles, where parties try to protect and grow their market share by suing each other over broad patents where no direct copying is required, let alone even knowledge that a patent exists, this litigation involved allegations by Cisco of direct, verbatim copying of our source code."

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