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Starent Fights UTStarcom

Starent Networks Corp. appears to have drawn first blood in its ongoing patent-infringement lawsuit with UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI).

The origin of the spat was the acquisition of CommWorks by UTStarcom in March 2003 (see UTStarcom Cops CommWorks). A number of Starent execs once worked at CommWorks before establishing the startup, and UTStarcom claims that Starent has deployed technology based on patents once owned by the business it acquired.

The dispute led UTStarcom to file a complaint against Starent in March last year, claiming that Starent’s ST-16 Intelligent Mobile Gateway product infringes upon two UTStarcom patents (see UTStarcom Battles Starent). In August 2004 UTStarcom pulled one of the patents from its lawsuit, leaving the companies to battle over a sole claim (see UTStarcom Cuts Starent Battle).

A year later, and the fight is still rumbling on. According to UTStarcom’s latest 10-Q quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), on February 17 this year UTStarcom attempted to enforce "a preliminary injunction against Starent’s use, sale, and offer for sale of products having the infringing feature."

However, UTStarcom was denied this preliminary injunction on June 17 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

“In order to get that motion, UTStarcom basically had to prove that it was likely to prevail in the [eventual] case, and it was unable to do that,” says Starent CFO, John Delea. “Right now, we are tentatively scheduled for trial next year.”

UTStarcom has also upped the stakes further, opting to file a second complaint again. “On February 16, 2005, we filed a second suit against Starent for patent infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California,” notes the 10-Q report. “On May 6, 2005, we served the Complaint on Starent. In the Complaint, we assert that Starent infringes a UTStarcom patent through Starent’s development and testing of a software upgrade for its customer’s installed ST-16 Intelligent Mobile Gateways. We seek, inter alia, declaratory and injunctive relief.”

Starent’s Delea says no court date has yet been set for this lawsuit. “It’s still fairly early in the process. It might not to go trial until 2007 or 2008. We believe our position is very strong with respect to our non-infringement, and we have a very good argument on the unenforcability of the patent. We expect to prevail.”

UTStarcom was unavailable for comment at press time.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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