Nortel Networks has slapped a lawsuit on Optical Networks (ONI), accusing the optical technology vendor of taking trade secrets and infringing a host of patents.
The network giant has accused ONI of "misappropriation" of trade secrets it allegedly gained from 30 of its employees that previously worked for Nortel. ONI customers include European telco Colt.
ONI's Dynamic Transport System (DTS) "bears quite a resemblance" to Nortel's OPTera Metro optical equipment for metropolitan networks, said a Nortel spokesman.
Nortel alleges that ONI, which filed to go public last week, has been luring former Nortel employees and contractors since 1998 to help create DTS and given them similar responsibilities to those they had in the development of Nortel's OPTera networks.
The lawsuit alleges that this behaviour "encourages them [former Nortel employees] consciously or unconsciously to disclose Nortel's technology, trade secrets, and other confidential information".
An ONI spokesman declined to discuss the lawsuit in detail, but said that it is company policy for new recruits to sign documents saying that they understand what is regarded as the intellectual property of their former employers and that they should not disclose this to ONI.
"We bend over backwards to try to make it clear what is and is not acceptable," he said, adding that ONI's core technology is developed solely in-house.
The lawsuit also accuses ONI of unfair business practices and competition, and lists five patents that the company allegedly infringed. Nortel is seeking damages, including profit lost through the alleged patent infringement, as well as an injunction preventing the sale of DTS.
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