Arista CEO Pens Letter to Customers in Wake of Cisco Patent Decision

Jayshree Ullal says Arista has addressed concerns raised by the ITC in its June 23 orders and reiterates the vendor's commitment to its roadmaps.

Arista CEO letter

Arista Networks President and CEO Jayshree Ullal this week looked to allay any concerns among customers related to the recent ruling by U.S. trade regulators that the networking vendor had infringed on patents of rival Cisco Systems.

In a letter to customers June 27, Ullal wrote that she and other Arista executives disagreed with the ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC) that certain Arista Ethernet switches and components infringed on three Cisco patents and the decision by the commission to impose a limited import ban on the offending products. However, she said Arista respects the decision and will comply with orders laid out by the ITC.

The ITC on June 23 upheld the findings of a single ITC administrative judge in February who ruled that certain Arista products infringed on three of five patents that Cisco officials initially said were violated. Those three patents involved private virtual LANs and SysDB for managing configuration data, and Ullal said that Arista already has taken steps to address the issues raised in the case.

"Over the past year, our team of incredibly talented engineers has been working on plans to manage through this potential outcome," the CEO wrote. "We recently released a new version of EOS (4.16.6M) that we believe addresses the ITC's infringement findings in this case. This new version of EOS is now available for download and will be shipped as the default image on all of new products in the near future."

She also said that Arista would seek regulatory approvals from the ITC for the newly designed EOS to ensure it complies with the commission's order.

In addition, Ullal wrote that Arista is bringing some manufacturing capabilities to the United States in order to gain more operational flexibility. However, she stressed that the move to create U.S. manufacturing operations wasn't an attempt to get around the import ban, something that Cisco officials warned against after the ITC decision was handed down.

"It is paramount to note that we intend to fully adhere to all ITC legal requirements and all products that are manufactured here in the United States will contain design-around versions of EOS," Ullal wrote. "All international customers are unaffected by ITC orders. Our primary focus is the continued supply and service of non-infringing products to our customers."

Cisco in December 2014 filed two lawsuits in federal court claiming patent and copyright infringements, alleging Arista was using 12 Cisco features covered by 14 patents in its own products. Two weeks later, Cisco asked the ITC to ban Arista from selling or importing any of the disputed products. They argued that the patents at issue were either invented by Cisco employees who became Arista executives—like Ullal—or by engineers who worked for those Arista officials when they were employed by Cisco.

Arista officials have argued that Cisco is using its significant financial resources and the courts in hopes of slowing the momentum of a rising rival. Ullal noted that argument again in her letter.

"Our purpose is steadfast and unwavering," she wrote. "We believe that entrenched habits and defensive approaches of legacy players must change. Arista is committed to this new breed of cloud-class, cloud scale and cloud-converged platforms with state-driven programmability, high availability and scalability."

The ITC decision didn't end all legal battles between the two companies. Another patent-infringement claim by Cisco is before the ITC and company officials expect that to be ruled on in August. There also are lawsuits and countersuits filed with the federal courts by the companies.