Light Reading

Suit Targets Avago's Optical Patent

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
11/2/2012
50%
50%

A small Danish company is suing Avago Technologies Pte. for fraud and breach of contract, claiming Avago is asserting patents that could unfairly shut out competition for 40Gbit/s and ultimately 100Gbit/s modules.

It's not a frivolous lawsuit. The Danish company, IPtronics A/S , makes laser-driver chips that are used in QSFP modules all over the place. Almost. "We supply pretty much the whole industry that's not Avago," IPtronics Chairman Martin Rofheart says.

This all started in 2010, when Avago sued IPtronics for patent infringement. For what Rofheart says are procedural reasons, IPtronics didn't get a chance to fire back until last week, when it filed its lawsuit in California federal court.

The suit claims that Avago, as part of an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) agreement, was contractually obligated to disclose any patents essential to the small form-factor (SFF) standards.

"Avago failed to disclose that they were 'of the mind,' as a lawyer would say, that the patent would cover an aperture of every size," says Rofheart. (The aperture part is key to the suit -- more on that in a bit.)

The case points to a sticky aspect of standards-setting. Most standards bodies require companies to share any essential patents, those that the standard can't be implemented without. The sharing doesn't have to be free; the technology can be licensed for fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. (Lawyers abbreviate it as (F)Rand.)

A similar legal fight brewed up around chipmaker Rambus Inc. (Nasdaq: RMBS) in the early 2000s. Rambus was alleged to have crafted key patents knowing full well that they'd be essential to memory standards that were being developed in the late '90s.

Rambus ultimately prevailed in that case, and a Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation ultimately went for naught as well.

IPtronics isn't prepared to go Rambus on this case and drop monopolization accusations on Avago, Rofheart says. But he does contend that Avago isn't acting fairly.

Lasers and apertures
Avago's patent describes a laser module based on a vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSEL). (If you want to look it up, it's No. 5,359,447: "Optical Communication With Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser Operating in Multiple Transverse Modes.")

Rofheart explains the patent this way: It covers the creation of an optical interface module by using VCSELs, multimode light, multimode fiber and a laser-driver chip. (The patent doesn't use the term "laser driver" but spells out technology that does the same thing, IPtronics says.)

Avago already used this patent to sue Emcore Corp. (Nasdaq: EMKR). Emcore fought back, even bringing the case before the ITC, but eventually lost -- because of that aperture thing.

Avago's patent happens to specify that the laser have an aperture larger than eight microns. That's why Emcore lost, according to Rofheart. A smaller-aperture laser wouldn't violate the patent, so the ITC ruled that Emcore had a workaround.

Avago covered up that possibility in its 2010 suit against IPtronics. Evoking a "doctrine of equivalents" -- a bit of legal logic saying certain similar works are pretty much equivalent to what's in the patent -- Avago asserted that the '447 patent also applies to apertures not larger than 8 microns.

Under that argument, any VCSEL-based arrangement similar to the one in question would violate the patent, which, according to IPtronics, means any short-reach, multimode, VCSEL-based module is in violation.

"That door has now been closed," Rofheart says, no pun intended. (Get it? Aperture? Closed ... ?)

That would be trouble for IPtronics's clients, the module companies also selling 40Gbit/s QSFPs based on four 10Gbit/s VCSELs. And the argument will probably extend into 100Gbit/s as well, for both 10x10Gbit/s designs and for upcoming 4x25Gbit/s ones, Rofheart claims.

Avago didn't return an email from Light Reading asking for comment. But Rofheart is doing all he can to get the word out about IPtronics's case.

His opinion is that Avago filed the suit figuring a Danish company wouldn't want a long fight and wouldn't bother brushing up on its U.S. legal options. "It's our thinking they would like to take the VCSEL node all for themselves, and with one arrow, they can hit pretty much every competitor," says Rofheart, who's based in the United States.

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
^Eagle^
50%
50%
^Eagle^,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:18:09 PM
re: Suit Targets Avago's Optical Patent


This is interestsing.  Because if it holds up, Avago wins and Iptronics looses, then Avago would have grounds to potentially go after JDSU, Finisar, et al.


This would truly be a clash of titans if Avago would try to "own" the entire vcsel based parallel array business.


sailboat

Steve0616
50%
50%
Steve0616,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:18:08 PM
re: Suit Targets Avago's Optical Patent





Oh yeah, it would be very difficult to go head to head with Avago. Plus, they could probably hit somebody with one suit after another if they wanted to really play hardball.


I would be really surprised if JDSU's patent lawyers could not find a few gems in their war chest from either E2O or Picolight that wouldn't be broad enough to snare just about anybody. 


But getting back to IPtronics, I was wondering if Finisar, Oclaro or JDSU are among their major customers? They said they pretty much serve the whole industry thats not Avago....that sounds like a possibility, anyway.


So, a fair licensing agreement, a countersuit, or perhaps getting acquired seem to be three options. If the first two are unfavorable to IPtronics, wonder what would happen if they got aquired by one of the major player, who would be better able to counter Avago. 


Still, it all gets back to your point that innovation is probably the biggest loser here.

<div></div>



^Eagle^
50%
50%
^Eagle^,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:18:08 PM
re: Suit Targets Avago's Optical Patent


It would also put a damper on start ups trying to innovate at higher bit rates for VCSELs adn for single mode VCSELs


should be interesting to watch unfold. &nbsp;IPtronics clearly has a smaller patent fight war chest than for instance JDSU. &nbsp;I wonder if JDSU would find the AVAGO IP in voilation of any of the patents they bought when they bought various vcsel companies over the years. &nbsp;


I don't have any insider knowledge of this. &nbsp;But should be good drama at a minimum. &nbsp;Look at the market cap of Avago compared to Finisar, JDSU, oclaro combined. &nbsp;


sailboat

Steve0616
50%
50%
Steve0616,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:18:08 PM
re: Suit Targets Avago's Optical Patent


Some years ago Finisar and Avago cross licensed this and a couple of other patents as a settlement to an inital suit by Finisar over alleged infringement of its digital diagnostics patent. Full details were not disclosed but Finisar may be off the hook, don't know about JDSU. &nbsp;A fat patent war chest always comes in handy, though.

Flash Poll
From The Founder
Last week I dropped in on "Hotlanta," Georgia to moderate Light Reading's inaugural DroneComm conference – a unique colloquium investigating the potential for drone communications to disrupt the world's telecom ecosystem. As you will see, it was a day of exploration and epiphany...
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon's Emmons: SDN Key to Cost-Effective Scaling

5|22|15   |   03:53   |   (0) comments


For Verizon and other network operators to ramp up available bandwidth cost effectively, they need to move to SDN and agree on how to do that.
LRTV Documentaries
Lack of Universal SDN a Challenge

5|21|15   |   04:51   |   (3) comments


Heavy Reading Analyst Sterling Perrin talks about how uncertainty about SDN standards and approaches may be slowing deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Steve Vogelsang Interview: Carrier SDN

5|20|15   |   05:02   |   (0) comments


Sterling Perrin speaks to Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, about the new Carrier SDN-enabling Network Services Platform and the operator challenges it solves.
LRTV Custom TV
Carrier SDN: On-Demand Networks for an On-Demand World

5|20|15   |   20:52   |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, talks about requirements and benefits of Carrier SDN during the keynote address at the Light Reading Carrier SDN event May 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
The Security Challenge of SDN

5|19|15   |   02:52   |   (0) comments


CenturyLink VP James Feger discusses concerns that virtualization could create new vulnerabilities unless network operators build in safeguards.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Elasticity – Highly Available VNF Scale-Out Architectures for the Mobile Edge

5|18|15   |   5:50   |   (0) comments


Peter Marek and Paul Stevens from Advantech Networks and Communications Group talk about their NFV Elasticity initiative and the company's latest platforms for deploying virtual network functions at the edge of the network. Packetarium XL and the new Versatile Server Module: 'designed to reach parts of the network that other servers cannot reach.'
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bay Area Spark Meetup 2015

5|14|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Developed in 2009, Apache Spark is a powerful open source processing engine built around speed, ease of use and sophisticated analytics. This spring, Huawei hosted a meetup for Spark developers and data scientists in Santa Clara, California. Light Reading spoke with organizers and attendees about Huawei's code contributions and long-term commitment to Spark.
LRTV Custom TV
The Transport SDN Buzz

5|12|15   |   06:01   |   (1) comment


Sterling Perrin, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, speaks with Peter Ashwood-Smith of Huawei and Guru Parulkar of ON.Lab about the evolution of transport SDN and the integration of technologies.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation CCAP: Cisco cBR-8 Evolved CCAP

5|5|15   |   04:49   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explained the innovation design of Cisco's cBR-8, the industry's first Evolved CCAP, including DOCSIS 3.1 design from ground-up, distributed CCAP with Remote PHY and path to virtualization. Cisco's cBR-8 Evolved CCAP is the platform that will last through the transitions.
LRTV Custom TV
Meeting the Demands of Bandwidth & Service Group Growth

5|1|15   |   5:35   |   (0) comments


Jorge Salinger, Comcast's Vice President of Access Architecture, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 and multi-service CCAP can meet the demands of the bandwidth and service group growth.
LRTV Custom TV
DOCSIS 3.1: Transforming Cable From Hardware-Defined Network to Software-Defined Network

4|29|15   |   03:48   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 can transform cable HFC network to a more agile software-defined network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Predicting Traffic Patterns for Quality Mobile Broadband

4|29|15   |   6:45   |   (0) comments


Accessing information ubiquitously creates complexity and creates heavy traffic onto the network, especially at large-scale events like sporting events or festivals. In this video, Huawei's Mohammad Hussain speaks to experts about how to predict traffic and improve user experience during periods of heavy traffic.
Upcoming Live Events
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Network functions virtualization (NFV) is not the easiest of topics to take on board, so here's a Light Reading infographic, developed following conversations with the folks at HP, that helps make sense of where NFV is taking the industry.
Hot Topics
10 Alternate Uses for Tablets
Eryn Leavens, Copy Desk Editor, 5/22/2015
Bidding War for TWC Looks Likelier
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 5/22/2015
Verizon Saves 60% Swapping Copper for Fiber
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 5/19/2015
Chattanooga Charts Killer Gigabit Apps
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/20/2015
Comcast Targets 6 New Gigabit Markets
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/21/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
With 200 customers in 60 countries, Stockholm-based Net Insight has carved out a solid leadership position in one of the hottest vertical markets going in comms right now: helping service providers and broadcasters deliver video and other multimedia traffic over IP networks. How has Net Insight managed to achieve this success in the face of immense competition from the industry giants?
My ongoing interview tour of the leading minds of the telecom industry recently took me to Richardson, Texas, where I met with Rod Naphan, CTO and SVP, Solutions, ...
I recently popped down to Texas to chat with CEO Eric L. Pratt about his company, Taqua.
Cats with Phones