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Arista Networks, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

November 9, 2018

ARISTA NETWORKS, INC., Appellant
v.
CISCO SYSTEMS, INC., Cross-Appellant

          Appeals from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in No. IPR2015-00978.

          Lauren Ann Degnan, Fish & Richardson, PC, Washington, DC, and Matthew D. Powers, Tensegrity Law Group LLP, Redwood Shores, CA, argued for appellant. Also represented by Michael J. McKeon, Adam Shartzer, Linhong Zhang, Fish & Richardson, PC, Washington, DC; Robert Lewis Gerrity, William P. Nelson, Tensegrity Law Group LLP, Redwood Shores, CA.

          John C. O'Quinn, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Washington, DC, argued for cross-appellant. Also represented by Calvin Alexander Shank, Jason M. Wilcox, William H. Burgess; Jon Wright, Daniel S. Block, Lori A. Gordon, Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox, PLLC, Washington, DC.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, Schall and Chen, Circuit Judges.

          Prost, Chief Judge.

         Arista Networks, Inc. ("Arista") petitioned for an inter partes review ("IPR") of certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 7, 340, 597 ("the '597 patent"), which is owned by Cisco Systems, Inc. ("Cisco"). After instituting an IPR, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board ("Board") upheld some of those challenged claims as patentable but invalidated others. Both Arista and Cisco appeal various aspects of the Board's decision. Having considered the parties' arguments, we reverse and remand as to Arista's appeal, and we affirm Cisco's cross-appeal.

         I

         Computer networks are made up of various network devices (e.g., computers, servers, routers, and switches) that are connected to each other. Within a network, devices can easily access information and services provided by other devices in the network. This convenience of access has drawbacks, however, as it increases the risk of an external attack on one or more network devices. For example, if an external attacker compromises one network device, the security of all connected network devices is threatened. As explained below, the patent at issue in this case relates to securing network devices from such attacks by using a logging module to communicate any configuration changes to a device.

         A

         The '597 patent, titled "Method and Apparatus for Securing a Communications Device using a Logging Module," relates generally to ensuring network device security by using a logging module with restricted configurability to detect and communicate changes to a network device's configuration. '597 patent col. 2 ll. 35-37, 45-47, col. 3 ll. 43-49.

         The '597 patent includes four independent claims. Claim 1 and dependent claim 29 are illustrative. Claim 1 states:

1. An apparatus comprising:
a communications device comprising:
a subsystem; and
a logging module, coupled to said subsystem, and configured to detect a change to a configuration of said subsystem of said communications device, and communicate information regarding said change to said configuration of said subsystem of said communications device.

Id. at claim 1. Claim 29 states:

29. The communications device of claim 1, wherein the logging module is configured to communicate the change to the configuration of the subsystem by broadcasting the change to the configuration of the subsystem.

Id. at claim 29.

         In one embodiment, a network communications device includes a "logging module" that monitors and reports configuration changes. Id. at col. 3 ll. 43-48, col. 6 ll. 7- 10. When the logging module detects a configuration change, it can indicate that change in various ways, for example, by way of "an indicator lamp, a message to a display, a message to another network device, broadcast message to specially-configured security devices, or other such mechanisms." Id. at col. 7 ll. 25-30.

         In some embodiments, the logging module communicates a configuration change by "broadcast[ing] the change in the configuration of communications interface . . . to one or more security monitors on the network." Id. at col. 7 ll. 39-41; see also id. at col. 8 ll. 52-54. Such broadcasting occurs by way of a multicast address. Id. at col. 11 ll. 45-50. To monitor these broadcasts, in some embodiments, a given security monitor must "subscribe to this multicast address." Id. at col. 11 ll. 50-51, col. 13 ll. 57-67 (describing the process of configuring a security monitor, including "subscribing to a logging module's multicast address in order to receive broadcasts from the logging module").

         B

         The named inventor of the '597 patent is Dr. David Cheriton, who at the time of the invention was employed by Cisco as a technical advisor and chief product architect. Dr. Cheriton assigned "the entire right, title and interest throughout the world in [his] invention" to Cisco, requesting that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") "issue all patents granted for said invention" to Cisco. J.A. 598; see also '597 patent (listing Cisco as the assignee). In the same assignment document, Dr. Cheri-ton agreed "generally to do everything possible to aid said assignee, their successors, assigns and nominees, at their request and expense, in obtaining and enforcing patents for said invention in all countries." J.A. 598. Cisco compensated Dr. Cheriton for his employment and, according to Cisco, provided additional compensation for the assignment of inventions he developed during his tenure at Cisco.

         Shortly thereafter, Dr. Cheriton and at least thirteen other Cisco employees left Cisco to found Arista. Dr. Cheriton served as Arista's Chief Scientist for several years. He also served as a director of Arista and was one of its largest shareholders. He resigned from Arista in March 2014.

         C

         In response to Arista's IPR petition, which Arista filed on April 1, 2015, the Board instituted review of certain claims of the '597 patent. In its Final Written Decision, the Board upheld claims 29, 63, 64, 73, and 86 as patent-able, but invalidated claims 1, 14, 39-42, 71, 72, 84, and 85 as anticipated or obvious. Arista Networks, Inc. v. Cisco Sys., Inc., IPR2015-00978, Paper 32 at 26 (P.T.A.B. Sept. 28, 2016) ("Final Written Decision"). In doing so, the Board declined to apply the doctrine of assignor estoppel, which in Cisco's view should have prevented Arista from challenging the patent's validity.

         Arista timely appealed with respect to the claims upheld by the Board, and Cisco timely cross-appealed regarding the invalidated claims. We have ...


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