Technology has brought about a new slate of intellectual property issues that see corporations facing off in court. Google and Oracle were engaged in a lengthy court battle over the use of Java APIs in Google's development of Android software, and numerous other companies have taken legal action against their rivals for similarly unseen elements used in the development of software applications. And as more and more companies enter the same space, there is the potential for a proliferation of copyright infringement cases.
The most recent example of copyright issues in the tech sector involves the ongoing court case between Cisco and Arista over what Cisco claim is infringement. Both Cisco and Arista are manufacturers of ethernet switches, and Cisco contends that some of the switches and related software created by Arista have violated their copyrights, specifically surrounding management and security of communications networks.
At issue is what Cisco claims is Arista's copying from their command line interface (CLI), which Cisco claims in distinctive to their design.The suit alleges that Arista stole word for word over 500 multiword commands that Cisco painstakingly crafted, among other offenses. The issue is complicated further by the fact that several of Arista's top executives are former employees of Cisco, a distinction that has furthered accusations that Arista has indeed ripped off Cisco's intellectual property.
In response to the alleged infringement, the U.S. International Trade Commission took the step of banning the import of Arista's ethernet switches as well as the sale of already-imported switches, a decision that was later upheld by the U.S. Trade Representative. The move shuts down Arista's most prominent product offering and its main generator of revenue.
Cisco also made a motion for summary judgment in their suit against Arista, a motion that was denied. U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman wrote that Cisco was thus far unable to demonstrate the centrality of the allegedly copied works, and that Cisco has been unable to demonstrate how their CLI was put together, or even make clear whether they were asserting copyright over particular elements or the entire work. The decision means that the case moves forward, with the fate of Arista seemingly hanging in the balance.