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Cisco target of patent lawsuit

A small company claims that Cisco stole its intelligent routing technology, and the company's lawyer is looking for a big pay-out.

A small Florida company is suing networking giant Cisco Systems for allegedly infringing on four of its patents.

ConnecTel claims that Cisco is using routing technology developed by its founder, Allen Kaplan, who filed for the patents in 1996. The company filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas, on Tuesday.

Specifically, ConnecTel is accusing Cisco of stealing its intelligent data routing technology, which chooses the best data path and transmission method for packets based on multiple factors, including bandwidth, availability, security and the user's priority. ConnecTel has never manufactured products using its technology. Instead, it has licensed the technology to several unnamed companies, according to Daniel Perez, an attorney with Winstead Sechrest & Minick in Dallas, who is representing ConnecTel.

ConnecTel claims in its complaint that it offered Cisco a chance to license the technology several years ago, but that Cisco rejected the offer. Later, Cisco used the technology in its own products, according to the suit.

ConnecTel is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction to stop the alleged infringement. Perez said he expects damages to be in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars.

Other companies, such as Internap Network Services--which bought Sockeye and NetVmg in 2003--EdgeStream and RouteScience Technologies, also have developed intelligent routing technology that can be used to alleviate data congestion problems on networks. The technology is especially useful for Internet-based video services, because congestion can degrade the quality of live streaming broadcasts over the Net. The technology works by monitoring IP networks and routing protocol streams to figure out the fastest and most cost-effective path for traffic to go through the network.

So far, ConnecTel has not gone after any of these other companies, according to Perez.

"My client will assert its rights granted by the patent to the full extent of the law," he said. "Cisco is the most significant player, and we are concentrating on them right now."

Cisco said it couldn't comment because it hasn't yet been served with the complaint.