CommScope files patent suit against Clearfield

fiber (pixabay)
CommScope and Clearfield are embroiled in a legal battle over FTTx patents.

Longtime wireless industry vendor CommScope has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Clearfield, a fiber-optics manufacturer based in the Minneapolis area.

The complaint points to 13 patents relating to CommScope fiber-to-the-X (FTTx) innovations.

“CommScope invests heavily in fiber optic innovation to benefit its customers and reinforce its position as a global leader in wireless and wireline network infrastructure,” said Jaxon Lang, senior vice president and Connectivity Solutions segment leader at CommScope, in a press release. “As such, we vigorously protect these valuable assets, and this action against Clearfield is a necessary step to prevent unauthorized infringement.”

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Lang added that consumer and business demand for more bandwidth and higher speeds is driving an intense need for innovations that enable fast, efficient, and more cost-effective deployments of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), fiber-to-the-building (FTTB), and other fiber network nodes. “Through continuous and significant R&D investment, CommScope has built a deep and extensive portfolio of issued patents related to a wide range of FTTx solutions that simplify fiber network installation, maintenance and management from the central office or head end to the home, business, or other node in the fiber network,” Lang said. 

For its part, Clearfield is having none of it and said it intends to vigorously defend itself, noting that it invested significant resources in bringing to market the products in question: Clearfield’s FieldSmart PON Cabinets, WaveSmart Ruggedized Splitters, FieldShield Deployment Reel System, SmartRoute Panel, FieldShield Multiport SmarTerminal and FieldShield Hardened Connectors. The company said it doesn’t believe these products violate the intellectual property of CommScope. 

“It seems that Clearfield’s successful penetration and growth in the fiber broadband market has attracted the notice of its competitors,” Clearfield CEO Cheri Beranek said in a statement. “Clearfield remains committed to pursuing its market development initiatives and to winning business with an expansive product offering to a broad customer base that recognizes Clearfield’s strong value proposition.”

RELATED: Q&A—Clearfield’s Beranek on aligning fiber management with capital costs, subscriber take rates

Beranek recently told FierceTelecom that the company’s approach to fiber management will set it apart from its nearest competitors, CommScope and Corning.  

When Clearfield designed its Cassette and the FieldSmart architecture, “it was about being able to provide a fiber environment for any type of deployment, whether it was wireline, cable or wireless,” she said.

“We got some pushback on whether 5G will be able to deliver gigabit services and is that bad for wireline deployment? Nothing can be further from the truth. True 5G performance won’t be possible without extremely rich fiber networks, and they will make FTTH and FTTB more possible if they are put in place.”

While the majority of CommScope’s business now is fiber, it’s been a longtime vendor in the wireless industry, providing small cells to operators like Sprint and spectrum management services at events like CTIA’s trade shows. It has also been quite acquisitive over the years, going back to the 2007 acquisition of Andrew Corporation and the more recent acquisitions of privately held small cell provider Airvana and TE Connectivity’s Broadband Network Solutions businesses.

CommScope announced last year that it would have an ultrawideband antenna ready for the 600 MHz bands currently being auctioned, serving as a “wide-area 5G coverage layer.”

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