Arista Switch Ban Stays in Place for Now

Scott Ferguson
7/21/2017

Arista Networks sustained a legal setback this week as the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled to keep a ban in place that blocks the company from importing its networking switches to the US.

Earlier this month, Arista stopped importing certain network switches as part of three-year patent dispute with Cisco. The company announced it would comply with an order from the ITC, although it asked the commission to lift the ban as other appeals made their way through various courts. (See Arista Barred From Importing Switches to US.)

However, on July 20, the ITC decided to keep the ban in place for now.

"The Commission denies Arista's request for a shortened response time in light of the joint stipulation by the parties, and denies Arista's motion for leave to file a reply in support of its petitions," according to the ITC order, which is dated June 20, but was made public this week.

Of the six patents that are disputed with Cisco, the ITC ruled in May that Arista violated two of them, which set in motion the ban of certain networking switches. However, the company noted in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) has invalidated all the disputed patents.

The PTAB is part of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

In a statement, an Arista spokesman noted that the company was disappointed in the latest setback, and that the ITC rules violated the spirit of the America Invents Act (AIA). The company also promised to modify its switches to meet the commission's final orders.

Marc Taxay, senior vice president and general counsel for Arista, wrote:

We are deeply disappointed in the ITC's decision to enforce patent claims that the USPTO has clearly found to be invalid. This represents an unfortunate departure from precedent and from the core premise of the AIA and its inter parties review proceedings. We will be filing an appeal to the Federal Circuit seeking an immediate stay of the remedial orders. In the event that the ITC's decision is sustained, we will also be releasing modified products to ensure the supply of our products to our customers in full compliance with the ITC's orders.

Arista has also posted a lengthy summary of its case on the company's website.


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Cisco and Arista have been fighting over patents since 2014, when Cisco first charged Arista had violated several of the ones it held.

Much of the dispute between the two companies stems from the time several Cisco executives moved to Arista after the company started, including Arista co-founder and board chairman Andy Bechtolsheim and CEO Jayshree Ullal. Cisco claims a number of technologies that Arista uses were originally created and designed at the company and these patents still belong to Cisco.

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— Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

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kq4ym
kq4ym
8/7/2017 | 10:47:40 AM
Re: Entanglements
With three years of litigation and probably a few more to go, it seems the winners here might be the attorneys. It's always amazing how despite contracts and agreements companies get into these situations where both sides think they're right, or at least attorneys on both sides think they've got a good case.
maryam@impact
[email protected]
7/27/2017 | 1:23:05 PM
Re: Entanglements
Joe at times litigation seems like its litigation for litigation sake. If it's not going to have an end game of bettering the companies competitive position or stopping a competitive threat that was unfairly gained the time and resources may not be worth it. The company may be hurting itself by not moving on to other areas that will increase their competitive position.
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
7/25/2017 | 2:34:04 PM
Re: Entanglements
@daniel: Moreover, when you're a big guy like Cisco, you don't want a reputation for out-litigating your competition instead of out-innovating your competition. And, indeed, Cisco has litigated against competitors only a few times in its history.
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
7/25/2017 | 2:32:53 PM
Re: Entanglements
These things often *do* eventually settle when there's no single clear-cut decision in favor of one party or the other (see, e.g., Juniper's settled patent disputes w/ Palo Alto Networks). There's a lot at stake here for Arista, though. Cisco is essentially claiming that a major portion of Arista's offerings are substantially all little more than counterfeits of Cisco offerings. There may also be some bad blood considering that Arista's CEO left Cisco to found Arista. Moreover, Cisco is, historically, a choosy litigant when it comes to competitors. Considering these factors plus how things have been going, I tend to expect that Cisco's demands would be quite high indeed.
maryam@impact
[email protected]
7/25/2017 | 12:58:53 PM
Re: Entanglements
Scott at some point they will need to decide if its worth the effort or if they should just settle. The price of legal fees and companies resources may well outweigh any benefits by the time the case is settled it's a delay process at best that the lawyers love!
Scott_Ferguson
Scott_Ferguson
7/24/2017 | 11:27:40 AM
Re: Entanglements
@danielcawrey: Yea, and the issue that is interesting is that Arista keeps saying they have won this or an organization has agreed with it on this, but the company's products are banned currently, so someone, somewhere must see an issue with what it has done. 
danielcawrey
danielcawrey
7/23/2017 | 2:46:24 PM
Re: Entanglements
This is an interesting story to follow. 

No one wants a competitor to do the things that Cisco alleges. If it's true, there does need to be sanctions put in place. 
Scott_Ferguson
Scott_Ferguson
7/22/2017 | 1:08:32 PM
Re: Entanglements
@maryam: You have it right that it's a big, sprawling case where the billable hours I'm sure are only going up. On the surface, it involves the ITC, the USPTO, and at least one of the federal appeals court districts. It's only three years in and I can see it going for another three easily if not a full 10.

 
maryam@impact
[email protected]
7/21/2017 | 1:01:21 PM
Entanglements
It's an interesting case that is almost a mix of non-compete, non-disclosure and infringement rolled into one. The courts will have an interesting time untangling the source and until then both companies may loose any competitive edge they might have gained and technology may evolve beyond the switches. It may be a case where only the legal team wins.
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