U.S. Regulator Backs ITC's Import Ban of Arista Products

The U.S. Trade Representative backs the ban of Arista networking products that the ITC ruled earlier this year infringed on three Cisco patents.

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Arista Networks didn't find any relief this week from another U.S. regulator over a federal ruling this summer that the company infringed on Cisco Systems patents and an ordering banning Arista from importing the offending products.

The U.S. Trade Representative ruled that the order issued in February by a single administrative judge with International Trade Commission (ITC) and upheld by the full commission in June—including the import ban in the United States and that Arista end all actions that violate the three Cisco patents—would go into effect Aug. 23, despite Arista's disagreement with the ITC's findings and decisions. Arista executives have said they will appeal the ITC's ruling.

"This is a great victory for the principle that the intentional use of others' intellectual property should not be allowed," Mark Chandler, senior vice president and general counsel at Cisco, wrote in a post on the company blog. "The ITC ruling documents that Arista set out to use Cisco's technology, knowing exactly what it was doing."

The ITC on June 23 upheld the findings of the single judge, ruling that certain Arista Ethernet switches and other components infringed on three of five patents that Cisco officials initially said were violated. Those patents involved private virtual LANs and SysDB for managing configuration data. The decision stemmed from a legal dispute that began in December 2014 when Cisco filed two lawsuits in federal court claiming patent and copyright infringements. Soon after, Cisco asked the ITC to ban Arista from selling or importing any of the disputed products.

Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal and other executives said the company already has taken steps to address the issues raised in the case. In a blog post in June, Ullal wrote that "over the past year, our team of incredibly talented engineers has been working on plans to manage through this potential outcome. 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."

Arista also has moved to alleviate some of the problems caused by the import ban. The company traditionally has manufactured all of its systems overseas, but Ullal has said that her company has begun to build manufacturing capabilities in the United States.

The CEO and other officials also have accused Cisco of using the courts as a tool to protect what they said is the company's declining position in the global networking market.

In his blog post, Cisco's Chandler disputes the contention by Arista officials that they have taken steps to correct the situation, and that Cisco is ready to push the issue if warranted.

"Based on what Arista has made publicly available to those who have purchased its products, it appears Cisco's proprietary technology is still being used," he wrote, adding that Arista now must convince U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials that its products no longer infringe on the patents. "Arista has also noted in several public forums that it intends to continue selling the affected products. It does this without any ITC or CBP approval. If Arista does not change its course, Cisco will bring an enforcement action in the ITC later this week."

In a statement released to journalists, Arista officials said they believe the company is "in full compliance with the [ITC's] remedial orders. As we've previously announced, all of our products now feature our new version of EOS, which contains design-arounds that we believe address the ITC's findings. Our primary focus remains the continued supply of non-infringing products to our customers."