Cisco responds to SMARTnet antitrust lawsuit

Cisco Tuesday said it would vigorously defend the allegations made against it in an antitrust lawsuit filed by Multiven, an independent

network services vendor. Multiven is accusing Cisco of "anticompetitive acts designed to maintain Cisco’s monopoly in the network maintenance services market for Cisco networking equipment." Multiven is complaining that Cisco "harmed Multiven and consumers by bundling and tying bug fixes/patches and updates for its operating system software to its maintenance services SMARTnet," Multiven says in its press release.

Multiven alleges that "instead of making these necessary software 'updates' and bug fixes available to all customers that have purchased its operating software license, as does Microsoft, Apple and Hewlett-Packard, Cisco is making the updates and fixes available only to SMARTnet customers." Multiven complains that these alleged efforts prevent independent service providers from servicing Cisco equipment.

In an e-mail response, Cisco spokesperson Terry Albertstein writes:

Cisco customers are in no way required to purchase services from Cisco.  There are thousands of partners who offer service programs for Cisco products, including bug fixes.  Additionally, customers who purchase SMARTnet from Cisco routinely rate Cisco’s post sales support and access to our technical assistance centers (TACs) as among the best support offerings in the IT industry.

Cisco’s SMARTnet policies for servicing equipment are also consistent with industry practices for making bug fixes available.  We have supported millions of customers through these programs which have helped ensure the internet is secure and can continue to grow at a rapid pace.  Our bug fix processes have been recognized as among the most transparent bug list publication processes in the industry.

Multiven says it is requesting "remedies to give consumers greater freedom and flexibility while at the same time ensuring that the network maintenance services marketplace develops into an open and competitive industry. Multiven believes that these remedies will help promote consumer rights worldwide and effect corrective action that will ensure that Cisco competes solely based on the quality and value of its services."

The suit was filed in the United States District Court in San Jose, Calif.

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