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Cisco, Arista Lawsuits Slog On As Barbs Continue To Fly

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It’s been a year since Cisco slapped red-hot networking startup Arista Networks with a pair of patent and copyright infringement lawsuits, and although little has been resolved yet in court, the fight between the two companies goes on.
The most recent jab comes from Mark Chandler, senior vice president, General Counsel and chief compliance officer at Cisco, who a few weeks ago posted a blog that provided updates on the cases. The post includes a sound bite Chandler attributes to Arista co-founder and CTO Kenneth Duda in which Duda apparently says that Arista “slavishly” copied a command line interface (CLI), presumably market-leader Cisco’s.
One of the lawsuits accuses Arista of copying Cisco’s CLI and two related patents.
The audio clip allegedly of Duda comes from what Chandler identifies only as a “public domain interview,” in which Duda said: “We want to minimize the transition costs to our customers. Our customers come very well trained, big staffs of people who understand that particular CLI and we actually copied that slavishly. Even the things we thought were very silly, we went ahead and copied them anyway because we wanted it to be as seamless an experience for our customers as possible.”
When contacted by CRN regarding the sound bite, Arista declined to comment on the “Ken video.”
“Arista makes no secret out of its willful, intentional and ongoing use of Cisco’s proprietary networking technology,” said Chandler, in his blog. “Why does Arista use over 500 of Cisco’s multi-word CLI commands, when competitors like Alcatel Lucent, Brocade, HP and Juniper have only a fraction of that overlap in their own products?”
The outcomes of at least some portions of the lawsuits should be determined in the New Year, Chandler said.
The CLI and related patents case in District Court is slated for trial in August 2016, according to Chandler, while rulings in a two-part International Trade Commission investigation are expected in January and March.
One Arista solution provider said he isn’t expecting the lawsuits to hurt his Arista business in 2016.
“The litigation is going to go on for a while,” said a top executive at a solution provider that partners with Arista. “Customers don’t really ask us, ‘Hey, are these [Cisco lawsuits] going to hurt us?’ … I just don’t see it impacting our sales or feel it’s going to really impact other Arista partners sales right now.”
During Arista’s third-quarter earnings call last month, CEO Jayshree Ullal said the lawsuit has not had a “dramatic negative impact” on the company’s sales momentum and customer revenue.
“That’s because our customers are smart and they understand that while there’s risks, there’s a deep appreciation for our technology advantages and also our commitment to assure continued supply through workarounds in a variety of ways,” said Ullal. “We explain the risks. We explain our advantages. We explain the possibilities of workarounds and get them comfortable.”
The fast-growing networking startup reported 40 percent year-over-year growth for a record $217 million in revenue for its third quarter. Arista exceeded Wall Street expectations by posting $0.59 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $0.53.
Arista Vice President and General Council Marc Taxay said during the earnings call that the company is focusing to “defend ourselves in the case and to create a mitigation strategy in the event that there’s a negative outcome.”
The barbs between the two companies have been ongoing over the past year. In August, Taxay lashed out against Cisco, saying the networking leader was acting like a “patent troll.”
“It appears to us at any rate that Cisco is behaving very much like a patent troll, which is pretty much what they’ve spent the last decade condemning,” said Taxay during an earnings call.
In response to Arista’s claims, Cisco said in a statement to CRN at the time, “Arista is clearly confused.”
In the lawsuits, Cisco is alledging that Arista, whose CEO Ullal was the former senior vice president of Cisco’s data center switching business, stole 12 “discrete and important” Cisco switching features covered by 14 U.S. patents to use in its own products. The networking leader also claims Arista stole more than 500 of Cisco’s CLI expressions from its IOS network operating system to use in Arista’s own EOS software.

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