3Com-Huawei Pact 'Surprises' Cisco

At a partner meeting scheduled in conjunction with NetWorld Interop in Las Vegas this week, 3Com is slated to detail plans for its joint venture with Huawei, the Chinese networking vendor currently embroiled in a far-reaching patent and copyright-infringement lawsuit brought in January by Cisco.

3Com said last month that it would team with Huawei to produce the high-end networking gear it needs to move into the large enterprise market.

Cisco CEO John Chambers said he was "a little surprised" by 3Com's decision to team with Huawei.

"We will enforce our intellectual property rights against everyone, including 3Com," Chambers said in a recent interview with CRN. "We don't do it unless there is a major issue, and we expect [3Com] to understand the major issues involved here about Huawei."

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3Com's Bruce Claflin: Full intellectual property review of Huawei was conducted.

3Com President and CEO Bruce Claflin told CRN that 3Com initiated talks with Huawei in June 2002 and conducted a full intellectual property review of the company months before Cisco filed its suit. 3Com asked for the review because it is "a normal part of due diligence," but also because "Cisco had been grousing publicly for over a year," Claflin said. "We did the full review and came away very impressed," he added.

>> The joint venture calls for Huawei to produce gear that has 3Com's 'look and feel.'

The joint venture agreement calls for Huawei to produce gear that has 3Com's "look and feel, nomenclature, publications and command-line interface," Claflin said. "These are changes we asked Huawei to make because we wanted our customers to have the same experience with the new products as with our own, but these changes [also] address many of the complaints Cisco brought in the lawsuit," he said.

Chambers said Cisco has never filed an intellectual property suit against another company, and it didn't do so without first trying to resolve the issue with Huawei. "We do not bring an issue like this lightly or before a long effort to set it right," he said. "As they look into this, people are realizing that it's not just a violation of intellectual property or routing protocols or documentation but literally across the board on a very broad basis."

Don Gulling, president of Verteks Consulting, an Ocala, Fla.-based 3Com partner, said he plans to take the 3Com-Huawei products to customers as soon as they are available. "3Com is confident the lawsuit is a nonissue, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "The Huawei products are very good, and the price point is fantastic. They are lower-priced than Hewlett-Packard and about half the price of Cisco."