Here we go again: Monopoly case another round in Arista vs Cisco

Take heart, readers, this can't go on forever ... can it?

Settle in and take you seats, Rocky Nine is about to begin filming, in the form of another round of litigation between Arista and Cisco.

This time around, the upstart is on the front foot. In a case filed in 2016, Arista accused Cisco of abusing its monopoly position to control who could use its networking gear's famous and ubiquitous command-line interface (CLI) – and who could not – and now that other lawsuits have been decided, this particular antitrust case is moving again.

Arista, it won't surprise anyone to know, was allowed to use, and then attacked for using, Cisco's industrywide CLI in its own equipment so that its customers' network admins could stick with familiar commands to run its switches, and the CLI became one of the battlegrounds of Cisco's lawsuits against the company.

When Cisco first fired its legal barrage against Arista in 2014, it asserted Arista's use of the CLI violated its copyright. That lawsuit centered around 514 Cisco commands, over which Cisco claimed copyright. The lawsuit was decided in Arista's favor, but is subject to an appeal by Cisco.

While that case wound on, Arista fired a sueball back in Cisco's direction. In February 2016, it asked a US federal district court to find that Cisco's dominant position in the Ethernet switch market made it effectively a monopoly; and that its delayed and selective enforcement of CLI copyright constituted an abuse of its market power.

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With other cases working their way through America's legal system – readers will recall there were also patent actions to decide – Arista's countersuit took a back seat.

Until now.

Next Monday that 2016 suit will go to trial before Judge Beth Labson Freeman in a US federal district court in San Jose, California. At stake, according to Arista's latest complaint filed July 30 this year, is how Cisco controlled the use of its CLI – in essence, Switchzilla would decide whether or not a company was a threat, and if so, stop them from using the interface, while others were waved through.

The complaint stated: “for over a decade, Cisco encouraged customers and competitors to invest in and adopt Cisco’s CLI. This practice was effectuated, among other ways, through Cisco’s representations that its CLI was an 'industry standard,' and without independent assertion of copyright or other intellectual property rights in the CLI commands.”

“Arista contends that despite knowing for years that Arista and other competitors had adopted Cisco-like CLIs, prior to 2014 Cisco made no statements that asserted intellectual property or other proprietary rights in the Cisco CLI itself”, the complaint continued.

The Register will keep its readers updated on next week's trial, provided something happens that's more exciting than expensive lawyers dropping standard forms in front of the judge and arguing with each other. ®




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