Network Security

Judge denies Cisco new trial, upholds judgement in patent infringement suit


A Virginia judge denied a request by Cisco Systems for a new trial after the court ruled last year that the company committed patent infringement in a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit filed by Centripetal Networks.

Last October, U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. ruled that Cisco had conducted “willful and egregious” infringement of at least four patented network security technologies developed by Centripetal Networks, ordering the company to pay $1.9 billion in damages, along with royalties that could increase the total size of the judgement to $3.3 billion.

The trial included evidence showing that within a year of meeting with Centripetal Networks and getting detailed demonstrations of its patented network security technologies, Cisco was incorporating similar tech into its network switches and routers.

Cisco filed a motion a month later requesting a new trial, saying the judge’s order was abritrary and “included new theories of liability and damages that Centripetal did not present and against which Cisco had no opportunity to defend.”

Morgan Jr. summarily dismissed those claims, writing in a March 17 order that the “most compelling evidence originated in Cisco’s own technical documents introduced at trial by Centripetal.”

“Multiple technical documents introduced in evidence by Centripetal, but published and circulated by Cisco itself, illustrated in diagrams and explained in text precisely how the infringing software functioned in the Cisco networks, which operated through its switches, routers and firewalls,” Morgan Jr. wrote.

Despite the documents’ submission in court, Morgan wrote that Cisco’s lawyers did not present any evidence to rebut the charges or call the authors of the technical documents as witnesses. Instead, the lawyers relied on technical animations created specifically for the court to portray how the company's network switches and routers worked -- animations that the judge said “misrepresented the functionality of the infringing technology.” Morgan Jr. also said the expert testimony Cisco relied on was “unpersuasive and in many instances not credible, resulting in a finding that Cisco's defenses were objectively unreasonable.”

He noted that the underlying technologies in the four patents that Cisco Systems infringed on were extremely valuable to Cisco Systems, financially and in terms of reputation. One helped proactively search for bad actors attempting to exfiltrate sensitive data from network routers and switches. Another allowed the company to search the unencrypted portion of encrypted packets for malware and malicious cyber activity. A third allowed Cisco to correlate NetFlow intelligence and proxy data from third-party sources. And a fourth allowed switches, routers and firewalls to automatically translate data into rules for blocking malware and data exfiltration.

These patents, “when combined, cover a broad spectrum of security software which promoted Cisco’s security products from an also-ran to a leader in the security marketplace,” Morgan Jr. wrote.

Derek B. Johnson

Derek is a senior editor and reporter at SC Media, where he has spent the past three years providing award-winning coverage of cybersecurity news across the public and private sectors. Prior to that, he was a senior reporter covering cybersecurity policy at Federal Computer Week. Derek has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Hofstra University in New York and a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University in Virginia.

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