Jury Rules Arista Owes Cisco Nothing in Copyright Infringement Case

Friday Dec 16th 2016 by Sean Michael Kerner
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Latest round in ongoing legal battle, gives an apparent victory to Arista, though Cisco disputes the result

Cisco's ongoing legal dispute with Arista hit a new milestone on December 14, with yet another ruling in the case. A jury in the Northern District of California found that Arista does not have to pay Cisco for any alleged copyright infringement.

The jury decision is in regards to Arista's use of commands that are similar to some found in Cisco's Command Line Interface (CLI).

"We would like to thank the jurors and Judge Freeman for their tireless efforts," Marc Taxay, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Arista, said in a statement. "Today’s verdict represents an important victory not only for Arista but for the entire industry.”

Cisco doesn't have the same view.

In statement issued by Cisco, the company said it respectfully disagrees with the verdict.

"The jury found that Arista infringes Cisco’s user interfaces and that it was not fair use," Cisco stated. "But the jury believed that Arista’s user could be justified by the narrow legal issue of 'scènes à faire.'"

"We are reviewing the details of the ruling and determining Cisco’s options for post-trial motions and appeal given the clear testimony that other suppliers use very different commands," the statement continued. "We note that during the trial, Arista’s representatives testified that the company had a policy of respecting intellectual property rights. We are pleased the ITC has made a final ruling of infringement against Arista regarding three Cisco patents, and a judge at the ITC has made a finding of infringement on two additional patents."

Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler said in a blog post that scènes à faire means the jury excused Arista’s copying because they believe that "external factors" dictated the selection and arrangement of some infringed features.

"We believe they misapplied, or misunderstood, this narrow doctrine developed to make sure copyright infringement does not extend to using commonplace elements from literary works such as a plot device, a character or a setting," Chandler wrote.

Cisco is currently reviewing its post-trial and appeal options. The December 14 judgment is the second in two weeks on the Cisco-Arista dispute. On December 9, the International Trade Commission (ITC) issued an initial determination over six Cisco patents that Arista allegedly infringes. The judge in the case found that Arista infringes on two of the six patents under review.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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