Arista takes a round off Cisco in long-running legal battle

Jury finds similar CLI syntax and manuals don't create Copyright claims

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Arista's taken a round from Cisco, as the two companies continue their long-running legal wrestle.

This time the jurisdiction was the Northern District of California and the matter under consideration was Arista's command line interface and whether it breached a Cisco patent, or Switchzilla's copyrights on syntax or a user manual.

A jury found Arista in the clear on all counts. Arista looks to have won thanks to the “scènes à faire doctrine”, a legal argument that says in some situations it's acceptable for a product to offer what's expected under the circumstances. The doctrine is often explained in the context of genre elements in cinema: you'd expect a noir-ish detective film to include certain trappings but would not expect using those conventions to create a copyright obligation. Previous cases have extended the doctrine to some aspects of software.

Just last week, Cisco appeared optimistic this case would go its way and further paint Arist as a serial IP appropriator.

Cisco's now taken to its blog to argue that the jury “misapplied, or misunderstood” the scènes à faire doctrine. The company also takes heart from the decision's point that Arista did copy Cisco.

Cisco general counsel Mark Chandler also asks the world to look at the scoreboard for IP battles between the two, which currently reads Cisco 2: Arista 1. In Cisco's view, Arista's point scarcely counts seeing as it was won on a technicality and despite being found to have copied Cisco's work. ®


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