Home Networking Sale of Arista products blocked in Cisco row

Sale of Arista products blocked in Cisco row

In the latest instalment of a stoush between networking companies Cisco and Arista, the latter has denied that a letter from the US Customs and Border Protection, placing curbs again on the import and sale of some of its products in the US, meant that any of its products infringe on Cisco's intellectual property.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a partner of Arista, sent a confidential communication to its sales and channel partners conveying this information.

Cisco originally filed two lawsuits against Arista in December 2014, alleging violation of 14 of its patents in the Arista EOS operating system. A second suit charged Arista with copying Cisco's user manuals.

At that time, Cisco sought an order from the US International Trade Commission for a limited exclusion of Arista's products that allegedly infringed on the patents and also a cease and desist order.

In January last year, Arista filed a counter-claim, alleging that Cisco was carrying out a "bait and switch" with its command-line interface by claiming it to be an industry standard and then trying to penalise competitors for emulating the same.

A judge determined in February last year that three Cisco patents were being infringed: patents associated with a central database, SysDB, for managing configuration data and private VLANs.

In April, the ITC granted a full review of the three patents.

In August last year, the CBP was asked to prevent the import and sale in the US of Arista products that infringed any of the three Cisco patents.

After Arista made changes in its products, it sought a ruling from CBP in November that it did not infringe on the patents and that its products could be imported into, and sold in, the US. The CBP issued the ruling requested and allowed Arista to resume import and sale of the redesigned products in the US.

But on 13 January, the CBP informed Arista that it was granting a request from Cisco to revoke the ruling that had been previously issued.

HPE said in its communication to its partners that they could confidently continue to sell HPE-Arista solutions.

In its reaction to the CBP's 13 January ruling, Arista said: "It is important to understand that CBP has not ruled that Arista’s products infringe. Instead, CBP has expressed concern that its original ruling was incorrect, based on input provided by Cisco."

The company added: "Notably, at this stage in the dispute and despite astonishing distortions to the contrary by our adversary, Arista has obtained significant victories in these proceedings, prevailing on nine out of the 14 asserted patents and, on December 14, 2016, obtaining a favourable jury verdict on Cisco's copyright claims."

Cisco legal counsel Mark Chandler said the CBP revocation order meant that Arista could no longer import or continue selling its products in the US, or import components to build those products.

On the company blog, Chandler wrote: "Arista decided last year not to submit its purported redesign to the ITC where each side could present evidence, instead somehow believing that CBP would approve the redesign without a full inquiry.

"The revocation of the initial ruling that was in Arista’s favour shows that their bet that CBP would not do a full review did not pay off for Arista, a fact that other infringers should note. Arista's customers have been left bearing the risk of a potential dead-end deployment."

He added that the revocation also highlighted "the breadth of the court and regulatory findings that Arista has simply not told the truth in claiming its products were developed from a 'clean sheet of paper'.

"For instance, even in deciding not to impose damages on Arista, a federal court jury in San Jose found in December that Arista had in fact copied Cisco’s user interface. And a few weeks ago, in a separate ITC case, a judge found Arista infringed two additional Cisco patents."

Arista was founded in 2004 by former Cisco employees Andy Bechtolsheim, David Cheriton and Kenneth Duda. Arista's chief executive Jayshree Ullal held several positions with Cisco in a 15-year tenure before she moved across to Arista.

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.