February 2, 2016: Three Patents
Sure enough, the ITC findings yielded some light on how the U.S. ITC judge would rule in court, confirming that Arista had infringed on three Cisco patents.
The ruling comes from a case covering six patents. One was dropped and two were ruled out by Administrative Law Judge David Shaw.
Of the three infringements, the most significant against Arista dealt with its SysDB, an important piece of software in the company’s switch portfolio. It’s a database that stores the state of Arista’s switches, and allows them to share state information with one another — the heart of Arista’s architecture. As much as 80 percent of its products ran the SysDB technology.
At this point, six other patents awaited a separate ITC investigation. But this ruling was a step toward determining whether Arista would be able to import its products from overseas.
June 23, 2016: ITC Bans Arista’s Imports
After February’s patent ruling, Arista took a blow from the ITC, which officially banned Arista from importing its switching products.
The injunction prevented Arista from importing any of the infringing switching technology and related components to the U.S., meaning that it had to start hoarding its inventory. The ruling also meant that it couldn’t build infringing products in the U.S. either, of course. The bans wouldn’t take effect until Aug. 23.
Arista said that it released a new version of its EOS software containing “design-arounds” to address the ITC’s findings from the February ruling. During the company’s second quarter earnings call in August, Arista reported that its sales were largely not affected by the import ban.
Anticipating an importing ban, Arista had hired a contractor in May to operate a manufacturing facility in the U.S.
This was the first of two rulings that come from Cisco’s complaints to the ITC, and the copyright infringement case was still in the pipeline.
November 21, 2016: Arista Redesign Succeeds
Arista’s newly designed EOS product was cleared by the U.S. Customs Border Protection agency, which said it did not infringe on Cisco patents.
EOS versions 4.16 and later “are not within the scope of the limited exclusion order issued by the United States International Trade Commission…and therefore may be imported into the United States,” according to an Arista SEC filing.
The three patents that the ITC found Arista infringed on, covered two features, PVLAN and SysDB. Arista got rid of the PVLAN feature, which didn’t widely affect its customers. And Arista was able to redesign SysDB with little difficulty, the company claimed.
December 9, 2016: ITC Rules on 2 More Patents
An ITC judge ruled that Arista did infringe on two Cisco patents in the second ITC investigation. In this investigation, there were six infringements in question, but the judge found no issue with four of them. The first investigation led Arista to its EOS redesign and importation ban, and most observers are expecting a similar outcome after the second ruling.
With that said, Arista intends to review the findings and address the infringement with another design-around. At this point, Arista still had its copyright trial to look forward to, which deals with Arista’s use of CLI commands.
December 14, 2016: A Copyright Win for Arista
Arista finally received some good news when it got in front of a federal court jury for the copyright infringement case. Although the jury in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California ruled that Arista did infringe on Cisco’s copyrights, it awarded Cisco no money in damages.
Jurors said that Arista proved that external factors, other than Cisco’s creativity, helped determine the design of its CLI. This defense is called scènes à faire.
This is significant because Cisco was seeking about $335 million in damages from Arista for allegedly stealing 500 copyrighted commands from its CLI.
The jury also ruled that Arista did not infringe one Cisco patent involved in the case, but that doesn’t affect the ITC’s rulings.