Nortel and others named in patent lawsuit

Alleging that their patented property was stolen, Stanford University and Litton Systems has filed suit against 15 fibre-optic manufacturing companies.

Alleging that their patented property was stolen, Stanford University and Litton Systems has filed suit against 15 fibre-optic manufacturing companies.

The companies accused of infringement include Alcatel, Nortel Networks, Pirelli, Lucent Technologies, Tyco International, Scientific-Atlanta, Ciena, JDS Uniphase, and SDL. The suit was filed on October 3 in US District court in Los Angeles, California.

"It's our desire to resolve this out of the courtroom," says Randy Belote, spokesman for Litton Systems Belote, adding that Stanford and Litton Systems have already begun talks with the defendants.

The amplifier, according to the patent, is a set of crystals placed in series with a signal-carrying optical fibre. The optical fibre supplies the crystal with the signal to be amplified, which is eventually fed back into the crystal by use of a multiplexing coupler, resulting in amplification of the signal.

The patent was developed by Stanford University, and Litton Systems was given the exclusive license in 1989. Stanford and Litton are suing because they claim the defendants used the patent to enable certain technology behind fibre optics, and to enable wavelength division multiplexing, according to a report by Epoch Partners, an investment bank that does research on high-growth companies.

The suit is not expected to reach a quick resolution, and could have far-reaching implications, according to Epoch's senior research analyst Mark Langley.

"Stanford and Litton know this case is important. Why else would they be suing the largest manufacturers of fibre optic cables on two continents and Bermuda?" Langley says.

Langley says that because of the large amount of manufacturing the defendants are doing, it is doubtful that the plaintiffs will receive their requested injunction, as that would shut down most of the fibre optic manufacturing.

The sale of fibre optic amplifiers is expected to increase from $US390 million this year to $US1.2 billion by 2003, according to a report by San Francisco research company RHK, as quoted in a story by Bloomberg News. According to the story, fibre optic amplifiers currently sell for up to $40,000.

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