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Protecting Innovation: The Beginning of the End

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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Protecting Innovation: Cisco seeks only fair competition

Arista’s filing of bogus antitrust claims today is not accidental or a coincidence.

The claims, most of which were included in earlier Arista filings, are a smokescreen to divert attention from the important ruling expected from the International Trade Commission (ITC) on February 2*. This is when Judge Shaw will rule on the validity of five Cisco patents and whether Arista infringed any of those patents. We chose the ITC as a forum because of its defined and accelerated timetable. If infringement is found, Arista, despite their efforts to delay the ITC process, may be just a few months from an exclusion order banning a majority (or all) of their products entering the United States.

The antitrust claims may also be a pretext to muddy a District Court trial scheduled for November, just as Arista used procedural tactics in a failed effort to delay the ITC actions. Arista missed the deadline for amending their claims in the CLI case to which they are seeking to add these new claims, after they got only a portion of the long delay they earlier sought from Judge Freeman.

Let me be clear. We welcome the opportunity to show that Cisco’s business practices are consistent with a highly competitive and vibrant industry. We seek only fair competition, but will take action against those who misappropriate our technology and use it to compete against us.

By contrast, the extent of Arista’s copying of our CLI sets them apart from others in the industry. They have directly lifted more than 500 multi-word command line expressions. By comparison, networking products from HP, Brocade, Alcatel-Lucent, Juniper Networks and Extreme each have only a small fraction of overlapping commands. It is no surprise then, that when Arista’s Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Software Engineering was asked about the CLI, he references his company’s “slavish” copying.

Our goal has always been to protect Cisco’s innovation, and stop Arista from using our patented and copyrighted technology. Arista’s behavior has negative consequences for the industry, and for their customers and partners who were sold products using stolen technology. They can no longer delay the inevitable.

* Updated 27 January 2016: The due date for Initial Determination in ITC Case 944 has been extended to 2 February 2016. This change is in response to the Federal Government closures that took place this week due to inclement weather in Washington DC.

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The Importance of Video Security That Scales

David WachtfogelBy David Wachtfogel, Director, Service Provider Video Security, Cisco

This week at IBC we are happy to announce that we’ve reached 300 million active VideoGuard Everywhere client devices. Think about that for a moment!

How did we get this far? Not long ago, service provider video distribution was simple: Service providers distributed the content they purchased from video programmers, over the networks they managed, to set-top boxes they also managed. (Ah, life was so much simpler then!)

And while this simplicity limited our viewing experience to a big screen at home, it was reasonably sufficient — because at the time, the big screen was pretty much the only screen we watched. Such end-to-end, managed environments simplified operations, and made it easier to protect the video service from piracy.


Family watching TV

Then came the emergence of broadband connectivity, and the Read More »

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See Cisco’s Proof Of Concept, IP-based Video Switch at NAB


Peter ChaveGuest Blog by – Peter Chave, Technical Engineering Leader, Cisco Video Software and Solutions

For as long as there’s been cause for broadcast video engineers to get together to talk shop, there’s been that big blob in the middle of the topological diagram — the frame-accurate crosspoint router, based on the coaxial workhorse that is the SDI (Serial Digital Interface.)

And at this week’s National Association of Broadcasters, in Las Vegas, broadcast video technologists will again assess the fate of SDI-based technologies, along the prism that is the inevitable and worldwide shift to their Internet Protocol (IP)-based successors.

The quest for an IP-based video switch — built from the off-the-shelf hardware that rides the cost curves happening in data centers Read More »

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Who’s Got (Networking) Talent? Launching the 2014 Global Talent Competitiveness Index Report

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery.” – Horace Mann, 1848

Mann, is he right. Education paves the way to opportunity and higher living standards. And today we recognize a technology with a similar power – the Internet. It’s been just twenty years since the spread of the commercial Internet, and evidence of its impact on employment, productivity and social development is all around us. But a major hurdle hinders the extension of the Internet’s benefits to more people: a worldwide shortage of skilled Internet technical (IP) professionals who ensure network connectivity for our homes, businesses, governments and economies.

Today Cisco participated in the launch of the 2014 Global Talent Competitiveness Index report, “Growing Talent Today and Tomorrow,” in Davos, Switzerland. And in Chapter 4 of the report, we specifically detail the shortage in IP networking professionals across 29 countries we most recently analyzed.

The headline: The shortage of skilled IP networking professionals will be at least 1.2 million people in 2015. In some countries, such as Costa Rica, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, there may be over a 45% gap. Even where countries have a relatively low shortage (e.g. Australia and Korea), the gap ranges between 10 to 20%. And in all countries, the networking skills gap is growing – due to increasing connectivity, the Internet of Everything, rising digitization of all business activity, globalization of trade and travel, and economic growth.

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So what can be done to close the Networking skills gap and ensure the benefits, and opportunities, brought about by the Internet continue to spread to more people on the planet?

When it comes down to it, specific programs and targeted policies are needed to expand the total pool of qualified people. More effort is needed to expand the total pool of qualified networking talent by: 1) increasing the number of new Networking employees (graduates); 2) encouraging and enabling mid-career professionals to transition to ICT and Networking; and 3) increasing a country’s total talent by encouraging immigration. The policies and programs created to achieve these results should:

Integrate more technology training into educational curriculum. Expand efforts to increase the number of trained ICT professionals from universities, vocational programs and technical training centers, particularly by integrating elements of computer science (CS) and IP networking into general education curricula at the primary and secondary levels. And ensure that when CS and networking courses are offered, they also are eligible to fulfill graduation credit, as opposed to only being peripheral electives.

Increase mentorship opportunities. Mentoring students provides opportunities to experience and learn about careers in technology related fields. Programs like US2020 aim to match one million STEM mentors with students at youth-serving non-profits. Girls Who Code is another shining example. The program involves summer training for girls in high school centered on project-based computer science education with real-world tech industry exposure.

Reduce limits on the number of temporary and immigrant visas for skilled workers. Current immigration policies directly impact the immediate supply of skilled networking employees. Applications for H-1B visas in the U.S., for example, consistently reach their annual prescribed limit within a week of becoming available.

Implement successful technical training program, particularly through public private partnerships. Tailored training programs can accelerate the number of skilled networking employees that enter the global workforce. Cisco’s own Networking Academy Program prepares students for entry-level ICT jobs through the PPP model. To date, globally it has trained over five million students, 92% of whom obtained a new job and/or further educational opportunity following their graduation from the Academy.

While the presence of the IP networking gap highlights a missed opportunity for countries to reach potential economic growth, with dedicated public policy, specific training programs, and public involvement on the part of governments, citizens and private enterprise, we can solve the talent gap.

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