Brocade Communications claims in a suit filed earlier this month that the founder of A10 Networks improperly used trade secrets and recruited top employees in order to build application delivery products that competed with those offered by Brocade.
Brocade is suing A10, its founder and three other employees for alleged patent infringement, breach of contract, unfair competition and other actions. The networking company, which acquired Foundry Networks in 2008, says A10 founder Lee Chen created his company and its products using proprietary knowledge. Chen was a co-founder of Foundry and was its vice president of software engineering until he left in 2004.
The complaint, filed Aug. 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Jose, paints a picture of cutthroat competition among Silicon Valley networking companies.
"A10 is an entity composed primarily of former employees of Foundry and Brocade and A10 was built unlawfully by exploiting Plaintiffs' intellectual property," Brocade said in its complaint, a copy of which was provided to IDG News Service by Brocade's attorney.
Having access to Brocade's intellectual property allowed A10 to build competitive products in two to three years instead of the seven to 10 years that is normal for a new player in the industry, Brocade said in the complaint. A10 introduced its AX line of application delivery equipment in 2007.
A10 declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday. The company does not comment on pending litigation, a spokeswoman said. However, she confirmed that Chen wrote a comment on a Yankee Group blog post about the lawsuit, as a personal response.
Chen started a company called Raksha Networks even before he left Foundry, Brocade alleges. The company was later renamed A10. After Chen left Foundry, he kept in touch with company employees by e-mail and socialized with them at Silicon Valley restaurants, and along the way recruited them to work at A10, the suit alleges. Out of a reported workforce of 67 at A10, there are at least 24 former Foundry and Brocade employees, according to the complaint.
Key engineers who built A10's products knew the content of Foundry's patents and knew the company had sought patents on them, according to the complaint. Rajkumar Jalan was the chief architect of Foundry's ServerIron data-center switch line, Ron Szeto was a senior engineer who worked on those products, and David Cheung was a software engineer at Foundry and Brocade working on Layer 4-7 routing products, the complaint says. All three are named in the suit, which alleges that all the ex-employees have violated confidentiality agreements.
Chen, Jalan and Szeto still have one or more unauthorized copies of Foundry's source code and used parts of it in A10's products, Brocade alleges. Other alleged trade secrets include business information, Brocade charges. A10 employees know "the identities and preferences of key personnel at each customer," the complaint said.
Brocade charges that A10 has infringed nine of its patents. The company is seeking injunctions to stop A10 from continuing to violate the patents or selling products that use its trade secrets. It also wants the intellectual property returned and is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The Aug. 4 suit had gone largely unnoticed until Wednesday, when it was reported by networking news site Light Reading.