Cisco Systems Dec. 5 sued Santa Clara, Calif.-based Arista Networks, co-founded by Indian American president and chief executive officer Jayshree Ullal, a former Cisco executive, for patent infringement and copyrights related to Cisco’s networking equipment technology.
Cisco alleges that Arista, which went public about six months ago and has a market value of nearly $5 billion, infringed on 14 patents covering key features of Cisco’s products.
Arista was co-founded by Andy Bechtolsheim, an engineer known for designing Sun Microsystems’ first computers and for being an early investor in Google. He also worked at Cisco after the company bought a startup led by Bechtolsheim, who is named as an inventor on some of the patents in dispute in the lawsuit, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Ullal, who helped create Cisco’s data center business as a senior vice president, before leaving for Arista in 2008, has more than 25 years of experience in the tech sector. She was named one of the “50 Most Powerful People" in 2005 in Network World and one of the “Top Ten Executives” at VMWorld in 2011.
Before Cisco, she was vice president of marketing at Crescendo Communications, which was Cisco’s first acquisition in 1993. She has a B.S. in electrical engineering from San Francisco State University and an M.S. degree in engineering management from Santa Clara University.
Ullal told the Journal Dec. 5 that she hadn’t yet received Cisco’s formal complaint, but added, “I am disappointed at Cisco’s tactics. It’s not the Cisco I knew.”
The lawsuit, which Cisco filed in federal court in Northern California, also accused Arista of copying other Cisco intellectual property, including copyright material from user manuals and more than 500 commands used to configure networking gear. The networking giant claims that some texts used by Arista have identical grammatical errors contained in the originals.
While Cisco has struggled recently to boost revenues, particularly in its routing and switching gear division, Arista has captured market share, with revenues rising 53% in the last quarter.
Cisco general counsel Mark Chandler told the Journal that Cisco hasn’t filed such a case as this one in 11 years, despite the fact that former Cisco executives have founded dozens of companies in the period.
He told the Journal that Arista has its own interface, but opted to use Cisco’s because customers are more familiar with it.
According to the Journal, whether copyright law applies to application programming interfaces was a key issue in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Oracle Corp. against Google, which is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling in Oracle’s favor.
Chandler said that ruling supports Cisco’s position against Arista, but he believes Cisco would prevail even if the ruling were overturned because there are differences in the two cases.
The Cisco complaint ask for unspecified damages, but Chandler told the Journal that the main goal is to gain an injunction to bar Arista from selling products violating its intellectual property.
Arista’s shares fell 7.2% to $68.24 in afternoon trading Dec. 5, while Cisco slipped 1% to $27.50.