About Ethernet Patent Law

In the Fall of 2009 U.S. Ethernet Innovations LLC, the owner of Ethernet technology, developed and sold by 3Com Corp., sued several of the largest technology companies for patent infringement.
Multi-billion dollar companies that made the list include Apple Inc., Dell Products LP, Gateway Inc., Hewlett-Packard Development Co. LP, Sony Corp of America and Toshiba America Inc.

The patent behind Ethernet technology was and is a protected under U.S. law and has created a lawsuit nightmare for dozens of companies over the last 8 years. Some companies have since settled the suit (Dell 2016) but the legal ramifications of U.S. Ethernet Innovations LLC original design have been staggering, costing multiple companies millions.

Today, it is imperative that start-up ISP providers realize this and become fully compliant in the law to not infringe on U.S. Ethernet Innovations LLC’s Intellectual Property (IP). To do this, it helps to understand what the patent is specifically protecting when it comes to this historic piece of Internet technology.

Ethernet Patent Diagram (courtesy of Google)
Ethernet Patent Diagram (courtesy of Google)

Under patent law, Ethernet technology is described as a “multipoint data communication system with collision detection.” The full documentation on the official Ethernet patent can be found here.

This all leads to a common question being asked now:

Is the current Ethernet patent hindering success of other tech companies?

In a more recent patent infringement lawsuit, Cisco Networks Inc. sued Arista Networks Inc. over a patent owned by Cisco Network Inc. involving Ethernet technology. Arista Networks Inc.’s resolution to this was simple. The company redesigned its Ethernet switches so that they did not infringe on a Cisco Networks Inc.’s original patent. Arista ultimately received a favorable ruling because of their design-around actions.

InfiniBand™ is a computer-networking communications standard used in high-performance computing that features very high throughout and very low latency. InfiniBand™ uses a switched fabric topology, as opposed to early shared medium Ethernet. This newer computer-networking communications technology has actually surpassed Ethernet technology in some tech reviewer’s minds.

“The hassle of software switching solutions is a real pain. When using RoCEE, the configuration of storage and data networks is much simplified since each network is separated into the different RQ channel. Much more reliable, faster and easy to operate when compared to Ethernet. “ – etherealmind.com

This emerging Internet technology brings about a new solution to the ongoing headache of Ethernet patent lawsuits so many companies continue to face. In short, Ethernet technology may be rendered obsolete in coming years and patent infringement cases will eventually decrease to 0.

About the author:

CHENG-NING JONG, P.E. Cheng-Ning Jong
Patent Agent

Mr. Jong is a Registered U.S. Patent Agent working at Tracyjonglawfirm.com and also a licensed Professional Engineer (Registration No.: 083586) in the state of New York. Mr. Jong is also the founder/owner of PatentSlice.com, an automated service that helps casual patent readers and patent practitioners alike, in more quickly grasping and analyzing the concepts of existing inventions and also your own patent drafts.