Cisco's Legal Battle with Arista Networks Continues

Back and forth legal dispute hits a new milestone as Arista is found to violate two Cisco patents.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Dec 12, 2016
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Cisco and Arista have been involved in a protracted legal battle over the last two years that just keeps on going.

The latest development in the legal contest came on December 9, with Cisco claiming victory as Judge McNamara ruled that Arista violated two of Cisco's patents, U.S. Patent 6,377,577 ("Access Control List Processing In Hardware") and U.S. Patent 7,224,668 ("Control Plane Security and Traffic Flow Management"). Arista for its part noted that Judge McNamara "favored" Arista on four out of six patent claims that were being considered.

"These patented technologies are required to improve the operation of networking products, and to protect the control plane of a router or switch," Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler wrote in a blog post. "These are core switch functionalities, and are included in Arista’s entire line of switches."

Arista's General Counsel has a somewhat different viewpoint and is highlighting the fact that Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) McNamara did not find Arista in violation of four out of six patents under review.

"We appreciate the tireless work of the ALJ in this preliminary decision and are pleased that she found in our favor on four of the asserted patents," Marc Taxay, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Arista Networks, said in a statement. "We do, however, strongly believe that our products do not infringe any of the patents under investigation and look forward to presenting our case to the full Commission."

The legal battle first began in December 2014 when Cisco filed a lawsuit alleging that Arista infringed on Cisco's patents. In June 2016, the International Trade Commission (ITC) issued a final determination on three patents in the case, with U.S. Patent 7,162,537 (“[E]xternally Managing Router Configuration Data … With A Centralized Database”) (Sysdb) and U.S. Patent Nos. 6,741,592 and 7,200,145 (Private VLANs). Arista was found to be in violation of those patents, but has since implemented a redesign so its products can be sold in the U.S.

A final determination is expected on the two patents (6,377,577 and 7,224,668) in April 2017. Even as the patents in question are under review, Arista stated that it intends to fully address the infringement findings with design workarounds for its products.

For its part, Cisco will continue on the legal approach.

"Our goal has always been to protect technological innovation, and stop Arista from using our patented technology," Cisco's Chandler wrote.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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