Cisco Asks Regulators to Ban Arista Products

The networking vendor is seeking an injunction from the ITC to keep Arista from selling networking products that are named in patent lawsuits.

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Cisco Systems officials are asking U.S. regulators to block rival Arista Networks from selling particular products that the giant networking vendor claims infringe on its patents.

In a post on the company blog Dec. 19, Mark Chandler, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at Cisco, said the company is asking the International Trade Commission (ITC) for an injunction to keep Arista from importing or selling any of the disputed products. The request comes about two weeks after Cisco filed two lawsuits in federal court claiming that Arista is using 12 Cisco features covered by 14 patents in its own products and is promoting those capabilities as selling points for its solutions.

Chandler wrote that Cisco is going to the ITC in hopes of speeding up the process of reviewing the claims against Arista.

"The ITC generally acts more quickly than typically occurs in district court cases, which will help us in our efforts to obtain orders to stop Arista's unlawful actions as quickly as possible," he wrote. "We have no interest in making this a long, drawn-out affair. We will move expeditiously to vindicate the principle that to succeed in technology, you need to innovate, not copy."

Cisco on Dec. 5 filed the lawsuits in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California, and in a previous blog post, Chandler said that most of patented features at issue were either patented by former Cisco people who now work at 10-year-old Arista or by people at Cisco who had worked with those now at Arista.

Included among the ex-Cisco officials at Arista are President and CEO Jayshree Ullal; founder and Chief Development Officer Andy Bechtolsheim, who was a founder of Sun Microsystems and who came to Cisco after the networking company bought startup Granite Systems in 1996; Kenneth Duda, founder, CTO and senior vice president of software engineering; and Anshul Sadana, senior vice president of custom engineering.

Arista officials have pushed back at the Cisco claims. In separate posts on the Arista blog, Ullal and Arista board member—and former Cisco official—Dan Scheinman said the lawsuits were an indication that Cisco was worried about the competitive threat posed by Arista. Scheinman said they echo lawsuits that were brought against Cisco as it started to rapidly grow in the 1990s by its more established networking rivals, some of which are no longer in business.

In addition, Ullal during a financial analyst event Dec. 9 said that her company had copied less than 1 percent of a Cisco manual, and that the error would be quickly corrected. A central technology that is being disputed is Arista's EOS network operating system. In the lawsuit, Cisco officials claim that Arista copied more than 500 multi-word command-line expressions from Cisco's IOS OS for EOS.

Scheinman said that "Arista's EOS was developed from the ground up as a next-generation network operating system for the cloud based upon the pioneering technologies invented by Arista—far from the ugly messaging pursued by Cisco."

Cisco is undergoing a significant transformation from a network box maker to an enterprise IT solutions and services provider, extending its reach into everything from data center servers and security software to the cloud, software-defined infrastructure and the Internet of things. While many of those businesses—such as its Unified Computing Systems (UCS)—are growing rapidly, Cisco is still working to shore up its core storage and routing units. In the most recent quarter, Cisco's switching business grew 3 percent while the router unit shrunk 4 percent.

Arista went public in June, and in the most recent quarter saw its revenues jump 53 percent over the same period in 2013, to $155.5 million, and income hit $28.1 million, almost double that from last year. Arista officials have said the EOS networking OS forms the foundation of its product portfolio, which has helped the company gain more than 2,700 customers and deploy 3 million cloud networking ports worldwide.