Cisco settles antitrust suit over software updates

A network maintenance company charged that Cisco squeezed out third parties by forcing customers to buy its SMARTnet service plan in order to get bug fixes

Cisco Systems has settled a 2008 lawsuit in which independent network maintenance company Multiven charged that Cisco forced customers to buy its SMARTnet service plan in order to get bug fixes and software updates.

Multiven agreed to drop its claims against Cisco, and Cisco dropped countersuits against Multiven, network expertise platform Pingsta, and Pingsta founder Peter Alfred-Adekeye. The terms of the settlement were sealed. Each party will pay its own legal costs, according to an order filed July 28. Multiven announced the settlement on Monday.

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Multiven provides technical support, maintenance and consulting services for networks from multiple vendors. It sued Cisco in December 2008, charging that the dominant network equipment vendor did not make necessary software updates and bug fixes for its products available to third parties. Instead, Cisco made those updates available only to customers of its SMARTnet service, preventing third parties from servicing Cisco equipment, Multiven alleged. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Jose.

Pingsta is a collaborative platform designed to let users procure network expertise on a pay-per-use basis from experts who work at will.

Cisco was not immediately available for comment. In December 2008, in response to the suit, the company said its customers were not required to buy Cisco's services and that thousands of partner companies offered service programs, including bug fixes, for Cisco gear.

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