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Protecting Innovation: The Beginning of the End

- February 2, 2016 - 0 Comments

Earlier today, the International Trade Commission (ITC) issued a ruling in the first of their investigations into Arista.

This follows a lengthy investigation, a review of thousands of pages of briefing materials and supporting evidence, and a two-week hearing involving testimony and cross-examination. We thank Judge Shaw and the ITC staff for their diligence.

Specifically the Judge’s ruling:

  1. Found violations of three patents: 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)
  2. Foreshadows an exclusion order banning imports of all Arista switches (implemented after confirmation by the full Commission).
  3. Installs a challenging ITC review process for any new designs (the result of not bringing evidence of new designs to the ITC hearing).

The details of the Judge’s determination will be published within 30 days, but this notice marks the beginning of the end for Arista’s systemic copying of our intellectual property.

Arista can no longer support claims to customers, resellers, and the market that they created products from “a clean sheet of paper.” The patents in question go to the core of Arista’s products. One of those found to infringe covers Cisco’s proprietary “SysDB.” Arista’s CEO has previously referred to “SysDB” as Arista’s “secret sauce” and more recently, the architecture on which NetDB is built. 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.

We seek fair competition, but will take action against those who misappropriate our technology and use it to compete against us. Based on our investigation, we believe that Arista’s use of our IP was intentional, pervasive, and driven by the most senior levels of their organization to unfairly compete. Copying and misappropriation are not a legitimate strategy, and today’s ruling is a vindication of our position.

We now see four options for Arista:

  1. Withdraw the products.
    This was the honorable path taken 12 years ago by the only other company that we caught intentionally using our intellectual property in their products.
  2. Modify the products so that they no longer infringe.
    Arista could have submitted new designs during the ITC investigation, but chose not to do so. We now call on them to disclose and submit any workarounds for the required ITC scrutiny.
  3. Face an exclusion order.
    Ignoring the order would result in further sanctions, including a potential permanent injunction against the sale of their products in the United States.
  4. Evade the ITC exclusion order.
    Instead of working around our intellectual property, Arista could try to work around the ITC. Any attempt to avoid an import ban by changing how they source and assemble products fails to acknowledge that ITC rulings cover components imported to make infringing products. This would be a cynical strategy that could expose their suppliers to liability for infringing Cisco’s patents, and validates customer and partner concerns about buying infringing products.

And this is just the beginning. In April we will see a ruling in the second ITC investigation, which may confirm more violations and import bans. Arista will also face two District Court juries with these rulings on their record. The judges and juries in those trials will note this day as the day that Arista no longer can pretend that its products aren’t tainted by misconduct. This will be important as they consider injunctions to remove infringing Arista product from the market.

Cisco’s goal has always been to protect our innovation, and stop Arista from using our patented technology. Their behavior has negative consequences for the industry, and is unfair to those who were sold infringing products and those competitors – beyond Cisco – who are working hard to play by the rules. We see today’s ruling is an important step towards accountability.


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