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Arista Lashes Out At 'Patent Troll' Cisco Over Lawsuits; Cisco Says Arista Is 'Clearly Confused'

Arista Networks' top executives criticize Cisco over pending patent lawsuits between the two data center rivals, while Cisco claims it is only defending its property.

Arista Networks CEO and general counsel lashed out against Cisco during its earnings call, referring to the networking giant as acting like a "patent troll" in regard to its current lawsuits against Arista.

"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 Marc Taxay, vice president and general counsel at Arista, during the company's recent quarterly earnings call.

"[Cisco is] choosing to assert patents against widely implemented, industry-standard feature functionality that exists in all network switches today and twisting the language [of patents] to cover things the patents were never intended to cover," said Taxay. "We find this an ironic strategy."

[Related: Cisco Lawsuit Against Arista Hits Setback After Federal Judge Dismisses Two Claims]

In December, the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant filed two lawsuits against Arista alleging the company infringed on a number of its patents and had stolen Cisco copyrighted material.

Cisco alleges Arista, whose CEO Jayshree 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 giant also claims Arista stole more than 500 of Cisco's command-line expressions from its IOS network operating system to use in Arista's own EOS software.

Ullal also took a swipe at Cisco during Arista's Q&A session during the quarter earnings call Aug. 6.

"Despite all the overheated rhetoric we've been hearing from Cisco blogs about Arista's brazen copying, we think the only thing brazen about the suit is the extreme length Cisco has gone to," said Ullal.

He said customers are still showing "unwavering" support for Arista.

In response to Arista's claims, Cisco said in a statement to CRN, "Arista is clearly confused."

"We are talking about 12 cutting-edge technologies developed at Cisco, patented by Cisco, built into our products, and being used today by our customers to meet their most pressing networking challenges," said Cisco in the statement. "Our goal is simply to stop Arista from using intellectual property designed and owned by Cisco. We have every right to protect our investments and innovations from brazen copying.’


In regards to comments made by Arista's leadership, Cisco noted that it is not using litigation to seek a monetary resolution, but to stop the use of its technology.

One solution provider and Arista partner said it's rare when Arista attacks Cisco publicly and that things might be heating up as the investigation finally gets underway.

"They've been pretty quiet about everything for the past six or seven months, even when we talk to them," said the top executive solution provider, who declined to be identified.

The executive said that although customers don't mention it, the lawsuits are in the back of partners' minds. In Gartner's most recent Data Center Magic Quadrant report, analysts said the lawsuits pose a potential risk for Arista customers.

"[Arista] stocks took a dive when Cisco [initially filed the lawsuits], and it could cause maybe somewhat similar harm down the road," he said.

A federal judge in July dismissed Cisco's claims against Arista for indirect infringement that occurred before the filing of its patent infringement lawsuit in December and also one of its willful infringement claims. The majority of Cisco's patent and copyright infringement claims were not impacted by the order.

As for the cases' legal timeline, Taxay said the International Trade Commission investigation will be conducted over the next several months, with the copyright case scheduled for August 2016; barring no unforeseen issues, the final decision will likely be made in late 2016.

Arista reported revenues for its second quarter at $195 million, an increase of 42 percent year over year. The data center networking vendor is expecting revenues to rise again between $208 million and $212 million for its third quarter.

PUBLISHED AUG. 10, 2015

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