Asus and Netgear become new Apple and Samsung as Wi-Fi router legal war breaks out

Wireless routers don't tend to figure prominently in the often nasty legal skirmishes tech companies wage against one another. However, Netgear has slapped a lawsuit on Asustek, the maker of Asus wireless routers and other networking equipment. Netgear is accusing Asus of shipping routers with different Wi-Fi output levels than what it is submitting to the FCC, which is a required submission by all wireless router manufacturers in the US.

The lawsuit was filed on 23 July in a California district court.

Netgear's complaint reads: "This action seeks permanent injunctive relief, damages and declaratory relief for false advertising in violation of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C §1125 (a) damages for tortious interference with NETGEAR's propective business relations..."

Netgear is crying foul about two particular Asus routers: the RT-N65U and the RT-AC66U. The vendor brought in a third-party testing company, NTS, to conduct tests on each router's output levels. According to the test result report released by Netgear, both routers consistently have higher output Wi-Fi levels at several channels in both 2.4 and 5GHz modes than the levels Asus filed with the FCC.

For example, one test result states that while an output level of 23.92 dBm at Channel 1 was submitted to the FCC by Asus, the third-party lab actually tested the output level at 34.24 dBm — 10.23 dB higher than reported. Similar results were found testing on different channels with both Asus routers. In the lawsuit, Netgear accuses Asus of representing measurements that were "false and fraudulent."

Why all the fuss from Netgear? According to Sandeep Harpalani, director of product marketing and core networking at Netgear, misreported output levels could cause interference in navigation systems, emergency response, and common household electronics such as baby monitors. Harpalani said there is a potential "safety issue" as well, "with interference with other bands."

According to Harpalani, Netgear brought the matter to Asus' attention before legal action was taken.

"We sent out notice to Asus first to take action in fixing some of [its] products on the market and make them compliant to the law," he said.

Evidently, sufficient enough action for Netgear was not taken, and the company reported Asus to the FCC and then commenced with the lawsuit. Both Asus' RT-N66U and the RT-AC66U are listed as Amazon's best wireless routers of 2013, and both are top sellers on Amazon. It's not far-fetched to surmise that Netgear may have undertaken such action to quell some competition.

Asus representatives had no comment on the matter.