New 3Com Enterprise Switch Could Raise Issues In Cisco-Huawei Suit


The battle for the enterprise networking market will heat up this week as 3Com unveils plans to release an enterprise-class Layer 3 chassis switch that the networking hardware vendor is OEMing from Huawei Technologies, the Chinese networking vendor embroiled in a patent and copyright-infringement lawsuit with Cisco Systems.

3Com last week asked the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall, Texas, to intervene in the litigation between Cisco and Huawei. 3Com, based here, wants the court to declare that the products it OEMs from Huawei and later sells through a planned joint venture do not infringe on Cisco's intellectual property. Also last week, Huawei asked the court to declare the same

for its new products.

In March, 3Com said it had formed a joint venture with Huawei to produce a high-end line of enterprise switches and routers.

Last week's moves follow a June 6 preliminary injunction issued by the court to bar Huawei from selling products that use Cisco

documentation, online

help files and source code. Huawei said it already has pulled the products in question from U.S. markets.

Cisco has no problem with 3Com being heard in the case as long as it doesn't delay the process, said a Cisco spokesperson, who called the preliminary injunction a significant victory for the networking hardware vendor.

Kevin Johnson, an intellectual property litigator at law firm Fish & Neave, said he also views the injunction as a Cisco victory. "Preliminary injunctions aren't granted unless you can show a significant likelihood of winning your case," he said.

But 3Com general counsel Mark Michael said the preliminary injunction merely ratifies what Huawei had already agreed to do. "Huawei admitted there were mistakes," Michael said. "It said it was going to fix them." 3Com is confident that the case won't prevent it from bringing the planned products to market, Michael said.

Bruce Claflin, president and CEO of 3Com, recently told CRN that the vendor initiated joint venture talks with Huawei in June 2002, conducting a full intellectual property review months before Cisco's January suit. "We did the full review and came away very impressed," Claflin said.

For their part, 3Com

solution providers seem unconcerned by the courtroom drama. Michael LeBlanc, CEO of LeBlanc Communications, Trumbull, Conn., said he's confident that 3Com has verified that the products it plans to sell don't infringe on Cisco's intellectual property. "I've seen the product road maps, and I'm very impressed with what they're planning," LeBlanc said.

Meanwhile, 3Com said last week that it plans to lay off 10 percent of its staff over the next two quarters.