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Optical/IP

Corvis Having a Rough Week

The long history of acrimony between Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV) and archrival Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) has taken a new twist. Yesterday a federal jury said Corvis has wrongly used a patent owned by Ciena (see Jury Sides With Ciena Against Corvis and Corvis 'Disappointed' by Patent Verdict).

Ironically enough, Corvis founder David Huber is one of the inventors listed on the patent, which covers a technology named "WDM optical communication system with remodulators" (Patent 5504609). But here's the lowdown: Though Huber founded both Ciena and Corvis, he did not have a license for 5504609 when he left Ciena to start Corvis.

This patent feud began in July 2000, when Ciena sued Corvis for allegedly infringing on four of its patents, including:
  • Patent 5557439 -- expandable wavelength division multiplexed optical communications systems;
  • Patent 5784184 -- WDM optical communication systems with remodulators and remodulating channel selectors; and
  • Patent 5938309 -- Bit-rate transparent WDM optical communication system with remodulators.
Last month, a federal jury found that Corvis did not infringe on two of the patents listed in the Ciena complaint. However, Corvis's inverse multiplexing transceiver product was found to infringe the Ciena patent on bit-rate transparent devices.

The federal jury's findings on Monday were even more serious because at issue is a system patent rather than a patent on a very specific technology application. Working without an application technology patent could be likened to driving a car with a misaligned front end -- it's uncomfortable, but definitely doable. Working without certain technologies covered by system patents, however, would be like trying to drive a car with no tires.

"The jury has ruled on a patent that affects virtually all of [Corvis's] WDM systems," says Ciena spokesman Glenn Jasper. Corvis did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Now that the jury has reached a verdict, the judge will hear post-trial motions for several months. Following that, unless a settlement is reached beforehand, the trial moves on to the point of deciding what damages will be awarded to Ciena.

Besides being beaten in court, Corvis is also having a rocky week on Wall Street. The company reported a net loss of $47 million, or 12 cents a share, on revenues of $1.5 million for its fiscal first quarter ended March 29, 2003 (see Corvis Posts $47M Q1 Loss).

Corvis's first-quarter revenues were down some 83 percent from its year-ago quarter and the company is expecting even lower revenues during its second fiscal quarter.

The company also confirmed today that it has begun yet another round of layoffs that will take its headcount below 350 over the next few months; and it may even shut down its subsidiary in France. Corvis employed as many as 1,625 people just two years ago.

Despite its troubles, Corvis sits atop the pile of cash it made at the height of the telecom bubble. Its cash and investments totaled $448.6 million as of March 29. Meanwhile, shareholders have watched the company that once had a market capitalization of $36 billion sink to abysmal depths. The company is worth about $301 million today, meaning investors might get more for their buck if Corvis were shut down and sold for parts than if it stayed in business another day.

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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fiber_dude 12/5/2012 | 12:08:52 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week Sparxe,

Corvis doesn't have $438 million in cash and 18,000 miles of optical network.

They Have:
$438 Mill Cash and investments
minus $128 Mill to Buy 18000 miles optical network
minus $50 Mill Burn on Broadwing for 2003
minus ~$50-$100 Mill of their own burn and restructuring for the year.

So, they will likely close the year with more like $160M-$210M cash, and 2 businesses which are both losing money, plus all the other stuff you mentioned - I hear fiber is worth alot these days :)
And they list their property at $38 Mill and falling each quarter.

Fiber_Dude



erbiumfiber 12/5/2012 | 12:08:51 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week Yup, I hear you. And isn't that the whole point of patent litigation in the first place??

I'm tired of the direction the American patent system is taking. I am moving to Japan in 3 weeks to be a patent attorney over there. There is much to be commended about the Japanese system (although it, too, is not without its faults) so let me give that a try for a change... at least their patenting style is different so you definitely have no trouble understanding which part of the technology is the actual invention...

And, of course, it will be super fun to live in the heart of Tokyo...

ef
Lightwoman 12/5/2012 | 12:08:48 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week Phil,
You said that Corvis is "worth about $301M today". That statement is not correct. It is only the market capitalization that is worth $301M.

The equation for total enterprise value, if that is what you were looking for, is:

TEV = equity + debt + preferred stock + minority interests + capital lease obligations - cash - short term investments

and to be correct you need to compute equity on a diluted basis.

with a very rough approximation as
TEV = market cap - cash - st
the enterprise value of corvis is around

- $150M (that's negative $150M)

That is the value that investors ascribe to Corvis' as a firm that sells goods and services.
In other words, it is expected that Corvis will continue to destroy value rather than create it.
porn starr 12/5/2012 | 12:08:47 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week the company's trading below cash - we don't need an MBA textbook calculation to reach your obvious point

Phil H. is right
Belzebutt 12/5/2012 | 12:08:46 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week Times are hard enough at CORV without your fuzzy math...


Sparxe, if I cared enough I'd search through your old posts and see what you predicted the stock to be by today, and how many customers there would be.
Belzebutt 12/5/2012 | 12:08:46 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week Corvis should give Ciena 10% of all the profits it ever made on these infringing systems.


;)
single mode figure 12/5/2012 | 12:08:43 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week It should compensate Ciena, for this reason;

A director at Corvis once told me, after he spun off with Huber's blessing and funding, that they always tweaked patents for optimal grazing power.
Bo Pedersen, had left Tycom, before joining Corvis, then with the new venture tried to Huberize Tycom's terminal architecture, and got sued...bad habits tend to replicate from the top guy..
zettabit 12/5/2012 | 12:08:43 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week I love the above line in the story!

Lower revenues than $1.5M! I guess just like Japanese interest rates, once you hit zero the downward trend will be over.

Let's see how the rest of 2003 stacks up for Corvis:

- AT&T ULH plans are on indefinite hold

- Sprint ULH plans are on indefinite hold

- Qwest's Q3 ULH plans are on indefinite hold, and previous Corvis contract commitments have finally been bought off and settled for peanuts.

- Level(3) is digesting Genuity

- 360Networks is digesting Dynegy

- Wiltel is working to a tight CAPEX budget, still has lots of extra capacity on some routes, and with Matt Bross gone, Corvis will have to EARN any new business. Has anybody at LR talked to Wiltel engineers as to their Corvis plans.

- Europe PTTs are not doing much, and ULH and Europe mix as well as blood and oil. And next-gen all-photonic networking architectures are still very much "under study".

So that leaves:

- Broadwing, the in-house customer

and .....

- Federal government GigBE !

Here is David Huber's financial guidance for next quarter's analyst call:

"Revenue will begin to stabilize as we begin converting Corvis cash balances into revenue through sales to Broadwing. Meanwhile, Corvis continues to target ultra-conservative and risk-averse customers such as the federal government given the short-term potential for one-time, support intensive, network build-outs. Corvis continues to offer industry-leading solutions, and I personally continue to berate key customers for their lack of vision in not adopting our industry-leading all-photonic network solutions"
zettabit 12/5/2012 | 12:08:41 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week SMF,

Can you explain what it means to tweak patents "for optimal grazing power"? I am not familiar with that expression.

What would be an example of what one would do to patent claims, or enforcement, when doing so?

Thanks
opticalphaggot 12/5/2012 | 12:08:40 AM
re: Corvis Having a Rough Week Everyone at Ciena owes Huber not the other way around. As much as I question Huber's lack of selling skills, I commend him for taking his vision and standing by it even if it means going down with the ship. That's more than I can say for most of these half baked idiots collecting a paycheck for doing their routine. That goes for Gary, Pat, and gang. Where would you bankrollers be without Huber's genius? Huber will have a true legacy, whereas Ciena's brass will have their names plastered on some university wall somewhere for donating some money to help green card holders send some more jobs overseas because the idiots in this country continue to complain and whine. That's fair compensation to ya. Serves all you bickering fools right!
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