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Cisco, Arista Trade Barbs After US Product Import Ban Upheld

The two networking rivals fire shots at each other after the International Trade Commission refused to lift its previously imposed U.S. import ban of some of Arista's products.

The contentious legal battle between networking rivals Cisco and Arista Networks continues to rage on as the International Trade Commission (ITC) Thursday upheld its decision to ban the importation and sale of some of Arista's networking products into the United States.

Shares of Arista stock traded down more than 3 percent at $151.81 Friday afternoon after the ITC denied the vendor's request to lift the ban.

Cisco Senior Vice President, General Counsel Mark Chandler said the ITC send "a strong message to Arista that its corporate culture of copying" must stop.

[Related: Here's Who Made Gartner's 2017 Magic Quadrant For Data Center Networking]

"We have had one goal: for Arista to stop selling products using Cisco’s intellectual property," said Chandler, in a blog post on Friday. "Arista has used every stratagem to delay the case and avoid taking that step … We hope Arista’s board will now stand up and demand that the company cease use of all misappropriated technology."

Arista had sought via an emergency petition to overturn the ITC's May 4 ruling that banned the import of Arista switches found to infringe on Cisco patents. The emergency petition came after a ruling from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) found the relevant Cisco's patents to be invalid.

In its ruling Thursday, the ITC said it denied Arista's petition because the USPTO appeal process has not yet been exhausted and is therefore not final.

"Despite Cisco's overheated rhetoric and promises to shut Arista down, we are still standing tall thanks to the wide-ranging support we have received from the larger community that sees this assault for what it is," said Arista in a statement to investors on Thursday.

The dispute dates back to December, 2014, when Cisco filed several lawsuits against Arista alleging the vendor infringed on multiple Cisco patents.

Arista is deeply disappointed" in the ITC's decision to enforce "patent claims that the USPTO has clearly found to be invalid," said Arista Senior Vice President and General Counsel Marc Taxay in an email to CRN.

Arista has already been creating new versions of products, such as its flagship EOS software, that have patent infringement workarounds.


"In the event that the ITC's decision is sustained, we will also be releasing modified products to ensure the supply of our products to our customers are in full compliance with the ITC's orders," Taxay said.

Arista partners said they don't expect much disruption as a result of the continuation of the ban, as the vendor has been planning for it.

"Arista has been planning for this for the last two years and importing more product before the ban, while also ramping up their U.S.-based manufacturing," said one top executive from a solution provider who partners with Arista, who asked not to be named. "It seems like Cisco is doing this to just trying and slow down Arista. Eventually, the ban will be lifted or there will be another workaround. I know this isn’t ideal for Arista, but I think they will get through it. The fact that Cisco is going after them like this, shows that they are concerned with the competition."

Chris Becerra, president and CEO of Terrapin Systems, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider and Arista partner, said he doesn't see the product ban "as a big deal."

"We don't see any issues from it," said Becerra. "It's just a nagging problem … These restrictions were based on some of the older products so it doesn't really matter much because we're selling the new stuff."

Rob Steele, Practice Manager, Converged for RoundTower Technologies, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based solution provider and Arista partner, said his company conducts surveys and solicits constant feedback from its customers.

"We haven't seen much concern around the [Cisco-Arista lawsuits]," said Steele, in an email to CRN. "While this may be a small bump in the road for Arista, this won’t directly affect our strategies and solutions with customers moving forward. I know Arista has taken some steps for the event of something like this including ramping up their U.S.-based manufacturing and also stockpiling product for the next couple years."

The two patent infringements involve Arista's Control Plane Access Control List (CP-ACL), Control Plane Policing (CoPP) and its Access Control Lists technology, according to Arista.

Several of Arista's leaders, including CEO Jayshree Ullal and co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, were previously top Cisco executives before joining Arista.

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