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Cisco Sued for Infringement of Old Nortel Patents

Spherix, a company that buys old patents, claims the bulk of Cisco's switch and router revenues since 2008 are based on Nortel patents.

Cisco Systems is being sued for patent infringement by a company armed with old Nortel Networks patents that it bought in December 2013.

Officials with Spherix are claiming that a wide range of Cisco products, from switches to routers, infringe on 11 former Nortel patents that the company now owns. The company in its lawsuit filed March 24 in federal court in Delaware claims that the bulk of the $43 billion in revenue the networking giant has generated over the past five years from its switching and router businesses was generated by technologies and services that infringe on the 11 Nortel patents.

According to the lawsuit, these include such products as Cisco's portfolio of Nexus data center switches, SR12000 Series of routers for service provider routers, and the ONS 15454 optical multiservice provisioning system.

Spherix does not say in the lawsuit how much money it is seeking from Cisco. However, the company notes that Cisco made more than $6 billion from its switching business and another $3 billion from router sales in the United States during the fiscal year that ended July 27, 2013, and more than $30 billion from switches and $13 billion from routers in the five fiscal years that ended the same day.

Cisco has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

However, Cisco has been aggressive in pushing back against businesses that buy patents and then seek to make money by then asserting those patents in court against vendors that already have products on the market. In February, Cisco and other vendors—including Motorola Solutions and NetGear—won a case against a firm called Innovatio IP Ventures, which had bought old Broadcom patents and then sent more than 14,000 letters to organizations using Cisco WiFi technology demanding thousands of dollars in licensing fees. Cisco claimed Innovatio was trying to leverage $4 billion from these businesses; Innovatio settled for $2.7 million.

Cisco also has been signing cross-licensing patent deals with other vendors as protection against patent-infringement lawsuits from other vendors or patent trolls. In February, Cisco signed such a deal with Google. Three days later, Cisco and Samsung inked a similar agreement.