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Cisco slaps Arista Networks with patent infringement suit

Jim Duffy | Dec. 8, 2014
Cisco today filed two lawsuits against data center switch competitor Arista Networks for allegedly violating its intellectual property.

Cisco today filed two lawsuits against data center switch competitor Arista Networks for allegedly violating its intellectual property.

One suit is for patent infringement, which charges Arista with violating 14 Cisco patents for 12 features in the Arista EOS operating system. The second suit is for extensive copying of Cisco's user manuals and command line structures, right down to the grammatical errors within them.

"This is not an accident but a strategy," says a source familiar with the matter. "It was a deliberate, brazen and blatant intellectual property violation in order to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. Arista's shortcutting to get to market and win share."

According to a blog posted by Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler, Cisco has only sued a competitor less than a handful of times in the last 13 years.

Patent infringement

In Chandler's blog post, Cisco identified 12 product features covered by 14 patents that Arista is said to have violated. "None of the implementations are incorporated in industry standards," Chandler writes. "They were patented by individuals who worked for Cisco and are now at Arista, or who at Cisco worked with executives who are now at Arista. These Cisco-created features and implementations are incorporated by Arista in their entirety into Arista's products."

Arista, which went public in June, was founded by former Cisco employees, many of whom are named inventors on Cisco's networking patents, the suit states. Among others, Arista's founders, President and CEO, Chief Development Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Senior Vice President for Customer Engineering, Vice President of Systems Engineering and Technology Marketing, Vice President of Hardware Engineering, Vice President of Software Engineering, and Vice President of Manufacturing and Platform Engineering.

"Notably, Arista was founded by former Cisco employees who were intimately and directly familiar with Cisco's patented networking technologies, including those protected by patents asserted in this action," the suit states. "Two of Arista's founders, Andreas Bechtolsheim and David Cheriton, developed patented technologies while at Cisco. While each has had a long career in the networking and computing fields, they are each named inventors on a number of the Cisco patents asserted in this case. Messrs. Bechtolsheim and Cheriton are aware of Cisco patents on which they were named inventors and that they developed while employed by Cisco."

Also, four out of the seven members of Arista's Board of Directors were previously employed by Cisco, the patent infringement suit states.

"Arista's goal is to sell networking products. Rather than building its products and services based on new technologies developed by Arista, however, and providing legitimate competition to Cisco, Arista took a shortcut by using innovative networking technologies designed, developed, and patented by Cisco," the suit states.


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