Cisco dents Arista again with patent infringement ruling

Should the ITC find against Arista its switches could once again be banned from import into the US.

A US trade judge ruled today that Arista Networks infringed on two Cisco switch patents – the second important victory the networking giant has won against Arista in their ongoing legal confrontation since it began in 2014.

U.S. International Trade Commission Judge MaryJoan McNamara issued the so-called “initial determination” on the case which now must be reviewed by the ITC. In the end should the ITC find against Arista its switches could once again be banned from import into the US. The ITC you may recall ruled against Arista in another part of this case and between June and August the company could not import those products. In November Arista announced that US Customs has given it permission to resume importing its networking gear in the United States.

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At the time Arista stated the company’s current products which contain redesigned software -- Extensible Operating System (4.16 or later) are not within the scope of the limited exclusion order issued by the United States International Trade Commission in Investigation No. 337-TA-944 and therefore may be imported into the United States.

According to Cisco, the Judge’s ruling this time around found:

  • Violation of U.S. Patent 6,377,577 (“Access Control List Processing In Hardware”)
  • Violation of U.S. Patent 7,224,668 (“Control Plane Security and Traffic Flow Management”)

“These patented technologies are required to improve the operation of networking products, and to protect the control plane of a router or switch. These are core switch functionalities, and are included in Arista’s entire line of switches. Once again, Arista’s customers will need to bear the risk associated with any import ban and cease and desist orders,” said Cisco senior vice-president and General Counsel in a blog post about the ruling.

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“In my two decades at Cisco, we have initiated an action such as this against a competitor on only one other occasion. There is no question that Arista copied from Cisco. There is ample evidence and multiple admissions from Arista confirming they have done so. Our goal has always been to protect technological innovation, and stop Arista from using our patented technology. We have made substantial investments in our technology and product development to build great products. We have a legal right and an ethical obligation to our employees, customers and shareholders to protect that innovation,” Chandler wrote.

For its part Marc Taxay, Senior Vice President, General Counsel of Arista Networks said the company “strongly believes that its products do not infringe any of the patents under investigation and “looks forward to presenting our case to the full Commission.”

The judge also found no infringement of four other patents Cisco originally asserted in the case, Arista stated.

“Arista intends to request a review of the full Commission of the [judge’s] findings. If granted, the full Commission is expected to issue a final determination on this matter in April 2017. While still subject to review, Arista intends to fully address the infringement findings with design-arounds for its products,” Taxay said in a statement.

Cisco noted too that both companies are currently in Northern California District Court “presenting our case to a jury about Arista’s copyright infringement of Cisco’s User Interface, including our multi-word commands for our Command Line Interface, output screens, help descriptions, as well as our user manuals. Our case further includes infringement of a separate, valid Cisco patent, which relates to Cisco’s innovative command line interface technology. The case is expected to conclude by Monday, December 12, 2016, with a jury verdict shortly thereafter,” Chandler wrote.

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