SENKO alleges VSFF fiber connector patent infringement in suit against US Conec

Jan. 26, 2023
US Conec denies the charges, which relate to the company’s MDC and MMC connector and adapter products.

Senko Advanced Components, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware January 24, 2023, alleging rival US Conec has infringed seven of its patents relating to very small form factor (VSFF) fiber-optic connectors. US Conec denies the charges, which relate to the company’s MDC and MMC connector and adapter products.

The patents at issue include U.S. Patent Nos. 11,307,369; 11,333,836; 11,340,413; 11,415,760; 10,191,230; 11,181,701; and 11,061,190. The patents cover, among other things, connector latching structure, complimentary adapters, and polarity change.

“SENKO has invested considerable time and resources in developing what we consider the industry's broadest VSFF product portfolio,” said Jim Hasegawa, executive vice president at Senko, in a press statement. “SENKO currently has over 70 issued VSFF related patents covering this technology, and many additional claims are still pending. In view of our investment to create the VSFF portfolio, SENKO believes it must take steps to protect its valuable intellectual property.”

In a letter to customers and partners issued January 25, US Conec President and CEO Joe Graham vowed that his company would fight the allegations. “In response to the recent public information regarding Senko Advanced Components’ allegations and lawsuit filing against US Conec, I would like to make it clear that our team stands on firm ground and we have full confidence that we will prevail in this unnecessary and reckless attempt to thwart our hard earned success in the VSFF optical connector market acceptance,” he wrote.

Graham also suggested that US Conec may have legal actions of its own in the works. “We believe that this short-sighted action by Senko will serve only to delay adoption of these novel, application enabling platforms and will ultimately hurt the industry as a whole,” he wrote. “For the past 30 years, US Conec’s business success has been based on our reputation as a trusted partner, technology expert, and industry advocate. We will continue to focus on these tenets while we manage the distraction caused by these recent actions. Our customers, licensees, and partners should be assured that we fully intend to continue [to] support and defend our game changing VSFF designs and solutions. US Conec will vigorously defend itself against these assertions while at the same time taking its own legal actions against Senko across a variety of fronts.”

The connector lawsuit

In the filing, Case No. :23-cv-00083 (D. Del., Jan. 2023), Senko says it wants “past and ongoing money damages and permanent injunctive relief for the Defendant's acts of making, using, selling, offering for sale, and/or importing its accused MDC and MMC fiber optic connector and adapter products” that the company alleges infringe on its patents. The patents describe technology that Senko has used in such products as its CS and SN VSFF duplex connectors and adapters as well as its new SN-MT connector, with a multi-fiber ferrule, and associated adapter.

The suit cites US Conec’s MDC as having “a similar size” to the SN connector and the MMC multi-fiber connector as also being similar in size to the SN-MT. The two US Conec products compete with the corresponding two SENKO products, the suit adds. Generally speaking, in competitive situations, the customer chooses a Senko connector or a US Conec connector; thus, any time US Conec wins a competitive bid, Senko “is shut out completely from making that sale–and often future sales–to that end customer and its vendors,” according to the suit.

“If US Conec is allowed to continue marketing and promoting its infringing MDC and MMC connector and adapter products, then Senko will continue to suffer irreparable harm, including loss of sales, market share, profit, and goodwill. This impacts both Senko's sale of the CS, SN, and SN-MT product platforms and also its potential participation in more lucrative sales of entire data center installations and communication networks. In short, Senko's VSFF innovation, its current market success, and its accompanying patent rights are deeply threatened by US Conec's infringement,” the suit states.

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About the Author

Stephen Hardy | Editorial Director and Associate Publisher, Lightwave

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave and Broadband Technology Report, part of the Lighting & Technology Group at Endeavor Business Media. Stephen is responsible for establishing and executing editorial strategy across the both brands’ websites, email newsletters, events, and other information products. He has covered the fiber-optics space for more than 20 years, and communications and technology for more than 35 years. During his tenure, Lightwave has received awards from Folio: and the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) for editorial excellence. Prior to joining Lightwave in 1997, Stephen worked for Telecommunications magazine and the Journal of Electronic Defense.

Stephen has moderated panels at numerous events, including the Optica Executive Forum, ECOC, and SCTE Cable-Tec Expo. He also is program director for the Lightwave Innovation Reviews and the Diamond Technology Reviews.

He has written numerous articles in all aspects of optical communications and fiber-optic networks, including fiber to the home (FTTH), PON, optical components, DWDM, fiber cables, packet optical transport, optical transceivers, lasers, fiber optic testing, and more.

You can connect with Stephen on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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