Trade commission will review contentious Cisco-Arista patent dispute

In what will probably be a long series of parries, the International Trade Commission this week granted a full review of certain patents in the now 15-month old patent suit between Cisco and Arista Networks.

Specifically the ITC granted full review of the three patents that Arista is allegedly infringing under the initial determination issued by the presiding judge on Feb 2. In February, the ITC made an initial determination that Arista infringed on three Cisco patents in its switches -- patents associated with a central database for managing configuration data (SysDB) and private VLANs.

At the time of that ruling Cisco said that “none of the patents have been proposed for or adopted as industry standards. And all patents we asserted against Arista were invented either by Cisco employees who became Arista executives, or by engineers who worked for Arista executives when employed at Cisco.”

+MORE ON NETWORK WORLD:Suing Arista was always the plan+

On this week’s ruling, Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler wrote in his blog: On February 2, Judge Shaw issued a ruling in the first ITC case (‘944) that Arista had violated three of five Cisco patents. Despite a large number of redactions, the reasons for the judge’s decisions are clear in the remedies or recommended determination document and the initial determination document. To aid transparency, Cisco asked for just six lines to be redacted from the nearly 300 page document. Both Cisco and Arista asked that the full Commission review the determination. Today the Commission determined to undertake the review. We welcome this additional review by the full Commission, and believe it is an important step in the comprehensive investigation and review of evidence by the ITC.”

For its part, Marc Taxay, Senior Vice President, General Counsel for Arista said of the ruling this week: “We appreciate the Commission’s decision to review certain aspects of the Initial Determination. We remain confident in the merits of our case and look forward to presenting that to the full Commission as part of the review process.”

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Cisco began its legal actions on Dec. 19, 2014 by filing two suits against Arista. One for patent infringement, which charges Arista with violating 14 Cisco patents for 12 features in the Arista EOS operating system. The second suit is for extensive copying of Cisco’s user manuals and command line structures, right down to the grammatical errors within them, Network World wrote at the time. Cisco wants the ITC to issue a limited exclusion order as well as a cease and desist order.

Arista in January filed a counterclaim to Cisco’s copyright infringement suit in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, for antitrust and unfair competition. Arista alleges Cisco conducts a “bait and switch” with its command line interface in which it claims it is an industry standard and then attempts to penalize competitors for emulating it.


Michael Cooney

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