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Akamai, C&W Settle Patent Suits

Two of the largest content delivery companies Friday made an announcement that ends years of legal feuding.

San Francisco-based Cable & Wireless America agreed today to drop several patent infringement lawsuits it had brought against Boston-based Akamai Technologies . As part of the pact, Akamai agreed to dismiss two lawsuits it had brought against the U.S. subsidiary of the international high-tech firm Cable & Wireless as well.

Both firms also vowed not to sue each other for a period of five years with respect to the patents and that had been at issue in these cases. As additional conditions of the agreement, no cash payments or compensation will be made, and each party may continue to offer its content delivery network (CDN) services.

"We are pleased to be able to reach a settlement and put this episode behind us," said Cheryl Houser, acting general counsel, Cable & Wireless America. "We felt that it was [best] for our companies and the CDN industry to reach closure on these matters."

The two sides have been battling for years over the core technology of systems that speed delivery of content over the Internet. The fight began way back in 2000, when Akamai sued Digital Island (which Cable & Wireless America acquired later that year) for infringement on its "FreeFlow" technology and Digital island countersued over infringement on its "TrueName" and "Footprint" patents. Since then, more than six patent infringement lawsuits between Cable & Wireless America and Akamai have been filed.

Though today's agreement technically ended these previous patent battles, the pact does not impact Akamai's existing damages suit against Cable & Wireless America in connection with U.S. Patent No. 6,108,703 - the original FreeFlow patent. In 2001, a Boston jury found that Cable & Wireless America was infringing that patent.

According to Akamai General Counsel Melanie Haratunian, Akamai will continue to press this damages case separately, and try to obtain compensation for past infringement.

"We are pleased that these patent infringement cases...will be dismissed," she said. "Independently, we will continue to pursue damages claims."

C&W officials noted that this latter case should not effect his company's operations significantly. In a prepared statement from spokesman Chad Couser, Cable & Wireless declared that this case relates to a "small" number of customers, and that any damages would be "immaterial" to the company's business overall.

No further comments from either side on the remaining legal actions were available immediately.