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Brocade Wins Another Round in A10 Patent Lawsuit

Brocade notched another victory in its patent lawsuit against A10 Networks as a federal judge denied a request from A10 to undo a permanent injunction that bars A10 from selling products that infringe on Brocade's patents.

A federal judge issued a ruling this week in an ongoing patent battle between Brocade Networks and A10 Networks. The ruling denied a request from A10 Networks to delay enforcement of a permanent injunction that prevents A10 from selling products that infringe on Brocade patents.

The San Jose federal court issued the injunction last month, after a jury in August found A10 guilty of four counts of patent infringement in a case that depended nearly as much on the incestuous habits of Silicon Valley technology companies as on technical invention.

The patents, covering a series of load balancers and application delivery controllers (ADCs), were actually granted to Foundry Networks, which Brocade acquired for $3 billion in 2008.

ADCs focus on improving delivery of chunks of data related to specific application sessions, especially those of virtualized applications.

The Foundry technology currently sells under Brocade's VDX line of Ethernet switches and VCS Ethernet-fabric products.

According to Brocade's original suit, A10 used its close connections to Foundry Networks to convince Foundry employees to transfer source code and other intellectual property to A10, often just before accepting jobs at A10.

A10 hired at least five Foundry Networks engineers in the years between 2004 and 2007, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal.

ZK Research founder and principal analyst Zeus Kerravala calls the data transfer "a significant paper trail of Foundry employees emailing source code to their A10 accounts."

In August of last year a jury found A10 guilty of infringement in the development of its AX Series of load balancers and of directly copying Brocade code, misappropriating Brocade trade secrets and unfair competition based on a fight over a hiring spat involving a Foundry engineer who left for A10 in 2008.

The jury awarded Brocade $112 million, an amount reduced to $60 million by the court.

Federal court judge Paul Grewal confirmed the guilty verdict and $60 million award in a damages hearing Jan. 11, but narrowed the scope of the injunction blocking A10 from selling products based on infringed technology.

In January, A10 declared itself unaffected by the judgment and announced it had already developed new software for its AX Series products that does not infringe on Brocade patents.

"We are our industry's leading innovator, and this ruling will not affect our customers, our partners, or our progress," said A10 CEO Lee Chen in a company press release.

Brocade's original suit accused A10 of anti-competitive practices via product development that was unnaturally fast because it was based on technology patented by someone else.

A10, citing the upcoming trial over damage awards, its intention to appeal the verdict and effort to rewrite the offending code, asked the court to delay enforcement of the permanent injunction.

Tuesday, the court said "no."

In response, A10 announced it would soon ship versions of its AX that comply with the injunction and do not infringe on Brocade patents. The ruling also doesn't affect customers who had purchased A10 products before the injunction.

A10 said it would appeal both the guilty verdict and subsequent rulings. Kevin Fogarty is a freelance writer covering networking, security, virtualization, cloud computing, big data and IT innovation. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, CNN.com, CIO, Computerworld, Network World and other leading IT publications. View Full Bio

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