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December 8, 2014

Cisco in patent battle with rival Arista

The lawsuit alleges that Arista is copying Cisco’s networking technologies.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Cisco has accused Arista Networks, a 10-year-old networking switch rival founded by former Cisco staff, of copying its networking technologies with a patent and copyright infringement lawsuit.

The networking giant, which builds its software platform on top of its Nexus switches, filed two lawsuits after claiming that Arista is using 14 Cisco patents in its own products.

The claims, filed in the Federal District Court in Northern California, also accuse Arista of copying material from user manuals and more than 500 commands used to configure networking gear.

In a blog posted by Cisco, Mark Chandler, SVP, general counsel and secretary and chief compliance officer, says Arista deliberately included 12 "discrete and important Cisco features covered by 14 different US patents."

He said: "All of these features are being used by Cisco currently and in products we ship to our customers. None of the implementations are incorporated in industry standards."

"They were patented by individuals who worked for Cisco and are now at Arista, or who at Cisco worked with executives who are now at Arista."

He added: "Our goal is to stop infringement by a competitor of features that are in products that we are shipping today."

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Responding to the claims, Arista said in a statement: "We just became aware of the lawsuit and have not had an opportunity to evaluate the claims in detail. We will certainly be doing so in the coming days."

"While we have respect for Cisco as a fierce competitor and the dominant player in the market, we are disappointed that they have to resort to litigation rather than simply compete with us in products."

There are more than half a dozen former Cisco employees at Arista including co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, who was also a founder of Sun Microsystems, and president and CEO Jayshree Ullal.

The company, controlled by former Cisco VP Jayshree Ullal, made its initial public offering in June and also set up the 25G Ethernet Consortium, which aims to allow large-scale data centres to run over a 25 Gbps or 50 Gbps Ethernet link protocol.

In 2003, Cisco filed a patent suits against Chinese rival Huawei, which the companies settled the following year.

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