Ciena Corp. sued rival Nortel Networks Corp. yesterday for allegedly copying six patented technologies Ciena uses in designing its network equipment.
The civil action filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas came a day after the expiration of a two-year deal between the companies not to sue each other.
A number of patent lawsuits have been exchanged in recent years among companies such as Ciena and Nortel that make network equipment to help Internet traffic travel more quickly over fiber-optic cables.
Intellectual property is a critical asset in this high-tech business, said Suzanne DuLong, a spokeswoman for Linthicum-based Ciena. In some cases, Ciena shares its technology by licensing it to companies for a fee, she said. Ciena holds 264 patents in the United States with 408 more pending, she said.
In January 2003, Ciena paid $25 million in cash to Nortel to settle a separate patent-infringement case that Nortel brought against ONI Systems Corp., a company Ciena had acquired in 2002. The companies agreed at the time not to sue each other for two years. That agreement expired Monday.
In 2000, Ciena sued competitor Corvis Corp., claiming the company violated four patents. Juries sided with Ciena on one patent but cleared Corvis of infringement on two others. The fourth patent case is still pending. Columbia-based Corvis last year changed its name to Broadwing Corp., and its equipment division is now known as Corvis Equipment Corp.
Christina Warren, a spokeswoman for Ontario-based Nortel, said the company had not received Ciena's complaint, and she declined to comment on the case.