Cisco Claims Patent Victory against Rival Arista

On Tuesday, Cisco Inc. was able to notch a victory in its legal battle against Arista Networks Inc. The company won a ruling against its rival from a federal agency that could put a stop to imports of the networking hardware, which belongs to Arista. An administrative law judge, David Shaw, who works for the International Trade Commission found that three of Cisco’s patents were infringed by Arista, which pertain to software features that are utilized in the switching systems of the company. Termed as an initial determination, his ruling could turn out to be a step towards a possible import exclusion by the ITC against Arista’s products.

The commission typically subjects these rulings to a final determination and this is expected in June. President Barrack Obama has the authority to block any exclusion order and an appeals court can also overrule it. There was a 2.7% decline in the company’s stock on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange, but it climbed up a little bit during after-hours trading as the news was announced. The biggest manufacturer of networking gear, Cisco had accused its rival of infringing its patents and copyrights in the federal court and also the ITC in December 2014.

Some of the allegations pertained to the kind of method used for typing commands used for programming Cisco hardware, which is known as CLI or command line interface, and is used by Arista and a few other companies. Now, the options available to Arista include trying to create a software that doesn’t violate Cisco’s patents. According to Arista, the judge had ruled in their favor on two of the four product features that had been part of the case. It was also stated by Arista that it didn’t believe it was infringing any patents, but was hoping to introduce software in the second quarter with the necessary modifications.

A spokeswoman for the company said that their goal was to ensure a constant supply of products to their customers. Last week, Arista had retaliated against Cisco by filing antitrust claims in federal court in San Jose, California. Cisco was accused by Arista for using a bait-and-switch strategy, which encouraged competitors to use the CLI technology and later declared it protected by copyright. The claims by Arista had been termed as ‘bogus’ by Cisco. The action of the ITC on Tuesday is related to patents concerning other software. A system database is covered by one patent, which is used for information storage on a networking device.

Two other patents are related to technology concerning security features. In a recent interview with Cisco’s general counsel, Mark Chandler, an exclusion order could be put into effect this summer, assuming that it isn’t blocked by the President or the commission. He said that they would appreciate Arista developing different software to avoid infringing the patents. He said that the patents involved in the case had been invented by employees of Cisco who later became Arista executives or by engineers employed at Cisco and worked for Arista executives. 

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