Antenna firm sues US firms in patent dispute

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2012, 12:00am

Comba Telecom Systems, a wireless equipment maker based at the Hong Kong Science Park, has ratcheted up its patent dispute against larger rival CommScope and its subsidiary, Andrew LLC, by suing the two American companies in the United States.

The lawsuit filed in the US district court in Delaware seeks to invalidate eight of Andrew's US patents covering remote electrical tilt (RET) antennae, which are used in the base stations of wireless networks.

Comba, which this week posted a 9 per cent fall in net profit last year to HK$659 million, said the legal action would protect its ability to compete in the US market after legal actions initiated by CommScope, through its Andrew subsidiary, alleged infringement of patents by Comba related to RET technology.

The Hong Kong-listed manufacturer is the leading supplier of base-station antennae used on the mainland. Its products are used by major telecommunications equipment makers such as Huawei Technologies, ZTE, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent.

CommScope, which is owned by the global private equity firm Carlyle Group, started litigation against Comba in mainland China and Brazil in June last year. It alleged that Comba infringed on certain patents that its Andrew subsidiary had registered in those two markets.

Comba said the eight patents targeted in its US lawsuit were closely related to the three patents owned by Andrew that were recently revoked by the European Patent Office.

It said those patents were also part of the same patent family that Andrew had asserted against Comba in China and Brazil.

In a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange in August last year, Comba's financial controller, Wilson Tong Chak-wai, said the Beijing High People's Court upheld a lower court's ruling in 2010 that declared Andrew's patents void.

Tong also said the Brazilian courts had refused to grant Andrew an injunction against Comba's sale of antennae products in that country.