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Legal battle between Cisco and Multiven flares up with EU antitrust complaint

The feud between Cisco Systems and maintenance service provider Multiven has come to Europe with the filing of a new antitrust compliant over how Cisco provides software updates.

Multiven offers cloud-based services with which organizations can manage, monitor and maintain their IT network assets. Because of Cisco’s dominance in the networking sector any management vendor’s tools and services need to be compatible with its equipment.

The antitrust complaint filed with the European Commission on Aug. 20 is just the latest encounter in the feud between Multiven CEO and founder Peter Alfred-Adekeye and his former employer Cisco. Multiven filed an antitrust suit with the Swiss Competition Commission in February last year, while the companies settled a case in the U.S. back in 2010.

As part of the latter case, Multiven alleged that Cisco orchestrated Alfred-Adekeye’s arrest on hacking charges, which Cisco vehemently denied. Multiven earlier this year also accused Cisco of stealing thousands of proprietary and copyright data files from its knowledge base.

An ongoing battle

In its latest complaint, Multiven again alleges that Cisco abuses its dominant position to harm consumers by bundling and tying software bug fixes, patches and updates for its operating system and application software to its maintenance services, dubbed SMARTnet.

This approach is in contrast to that of vendors such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and many others, which offer these types of “necessary and crucial” software updates for free, Multiven said on Tuesday.

“Cisco’s refusal to make all software updates freely available to all customers that have purchased its software not only stifles free and fair competition but also puts the Internet at risk of avoidable cyberattacks on a daily basis,” Alfred-Adekeye said in a statement.

The complaint also alleges that Cisco engages in a series of illegal anti-competitive acts, including coercing its 52,000 reseller partners to refuse to deal with Multiven and other companies that compete with SMARTnet.

Cisco claims the allegations are baseless

“Multiven is simply repeating similar allegations it has made unsuccessfully in the past to several antitrust regulators including the European Commission. These allegations are completely without merit and have been consistently rejected or simply ignored. We look forward to discussing these most recent baseless allegations with the European Commission,” the company said via email.

The company has in the past said that users are not required to buy Cisco’s services and that thousands of partner companies offered service programs, including bug fixes, for its equipment.

This isn’t the first time a third-party software maintenance provider and a large vendor are involved in a legal battle. Oracle has, for example, cracked down on a number companies it claims are providing support services for its products in an illegal fashion, including Rimini Street.

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