Judge Favors Arista in Co-Founder Lawsuit

David Cheriton, Arista co-founder and Arista's biggest stockholder, says another company he founded – OptumSoft – owns key software used by Arista in its high-performance networking equipment.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

December 18, 2015

2 Min Read
Judge Favors Arista in Co-Founder Lawsuit

A California Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of Arista in an important intellectual property lawsuit filed by one of the company's co-founders, who is also its biggest stockholder.

In a preliminary ruling dated Wednesday, Judge Peter H. Kirwan, Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, rejected a claim by OptumSoft Inc. , a company founded by Arista co-founder David Cheriton, that OptumSoft owns the intellectual property behind key Arista Networks Inc. software. (See Arista Faces Legal Challenge as It Files for $200M IPO.)

Specifically, OptumSoft claimed to own Smash, software integral to high-performance routing and switching, used by Arista's major financial services, web and other big customers.

OptumSoft also claimed to own Sysdb, used for coordinating processes within a networking system.

Both Smash and Sysdb work with TACC, a programming language, compiler and runtime framework owned by Optumsoft and licensed to Arista within days of Arista's founding in 2004. (Arista was called "Arastra" then.)

Ownership of TACC wasn't disputed; it belongs to OptumSoft. Arista had a perpetual, non-revocable and non-exclusive license to TACC, which also gives OptumSoft ownership of improvements to TACC made by Arista. And that's the crux of the dispute: Optumsoft claims Smash and Sysdb were improvements to TACC and therefore belong to OptumSoft. Arista disagreed, and Kirwan sided with Arista in his preliminary ruling.

Kirwan wrote: "Had Dr. Cheriton wanted the scope of the ownership provision to include software written by Arista that would aid in the development of programs with TACC or would be useful to TACC programmers, it should have been clearly and explicitly set forth in the language of the Agreement."

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Adding a weird wrinkle to the lawsuit, Cheriton is Arista's largest shareholder. More precisely, "The 2010 David R Cheriton Irrevocable Trust dtd July 27 2010" owns 21.71% of the total shares of Arista.

Not surprisingly, Arista said in an emailed statement that it was "pleased" with the decision. OptumSoft hasn't responded yet to a request for comment.

Arista still has another big intellectual property lawsuit pending: Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) sued Arista in December 2014 charging "repeated and pervasive copying of key inventions in Cisco products," including Cisco's implementation of the command line interface. That lawsuit is grinding on in multiple jurisdictions, and is unlikely to be resolved soon. (See Cisco Slams Arista With Massive Patent & Copyright Suit.)

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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