US trade watchdog to probe Cisco's gripes that Arista is still ripping off its router patents

Rival hits back, claims Switchzilla is using courts to crush competition

The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) has promised to look into Cisco's claims that Arista is still shipping devices that infringe its networking patent.

Back in 2014, Cisco accused its rival of ripping off its copyright and patented designs. In February this year, the ITC ruled in Switchzilla's favor [PDF] and slapped an import ban on Arista's kit. Essentially that meant, from June 23, Arista could no longer sell or market hardware that infringed Cisco's intellectual property.

Arista shrugged off the ban in its last earnings call with analysts, saying it had rewritten the offending software code around April this year to avoid Cisco's patented technologies, and thus reckons it is no longer shipping devices that fall under the ban.

Soon after the cease-and-desist order kicked in, though, Cisco again complained to the ITC, alleging Arista was dodging the ban by continuing to ship infringing products. The watchdog published a formal notice [PDF] confirming it will look into Cisco's gripes:

On August 26, 2016, Cisco filed a complaint requesting that the Commission institute a formal enforcement proceeding under Commission Rule 210.75(b) to investigate alleged violations of the CDO [cease and desist order] by Arista. Having examined the enforcement complaint and the supporting documents, the Commission has determined to institute a formal enforcement proceeding to determine whether Arista is in violation of the June 23, 2016 CDO issued in the original investigation and to determine what, if any, enforcement measures are appropriate.

In response, Arista told the ITC [PDF] it is not selling infringing gear, and accused Cisco of attempting to crush competition via the courts:

As will be established decisively in this enforcement proceeding, Cisco’s complaint is without merit. Arista’s EOS software has been redesigned to ensure that it does not infringe any asserted claim of the ’537 patent and that it complies with the Commission’s Orders. And Cisco knows this to be true or, at best, should know it to be true. Its complaint was brought not to redress any actual ongoing infringement, but as a commercial tool designed to advance Cisco’s interests in the marketplace.

The '537 patent describes a "method and system for externally managing router configuration data in conjunction with a centralized database."

While the legal action is playing out, The Register has heard from one Arista buyer who has cancelled an order for its kit, due to supply problems. Arista will report its Q3 earnings on Thursday. El Reg will keep an ear open for any news of supply chain issues. ®

This article was updated after publication to include a response from Arista.

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