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Seagate sues STEC over SSDs

Seagate sues STEC over SSDs

Seagate CEO Bill Watkins claims that STEC owes his company some serious money for the SSD technology they use.

If you've been wondering what happened to Seagate CEO Bill Watkin's claims that his company holds patents vital to the production of solid state disks, he's finally putting his not-inconsiderable money where his mouth is.

According to an article published on DailyTech yesterday, Watkins has finally filed a suit against SSD manufacturer STEC for infringement of Seagate's patents relating to memory-backup systems, error correction, and methods for storage devices to interface with host PCs.

STEC, you may remember, is one of the leading manufacturers of SSD devices – as we originally reported last year they were the first company to produce a 512GB SSD – and represents a clear threat to Seagate's market share of the traditional disk market. With more notebook manufacturers opting for SSD-based drives, Seagate is clearly getting worried.

Watkins has issued a statement on the matter, in which he accuses companies like STEC of taking “shortcuts in the race to innovate,” and says that “now is the time to start enforcing our patents." Seeking treble damages should the courts find STEC guilty of wilful infringement, Watkins claims that his company has spoken to STEC regarding licensing the patents but that the rival company has “blatantly decided they don't have to.

STEC doesn't feel quite the same way, however. In a CNET News Blog posting the company is quoted as saying it will “aggressively” defend itself against Seagate's allegations. The company believes that it can fight fire with fire, claiming that it holds prior patents from over a decade before Seagate's were granted. If true, this could lead to Seagate's patents being rendered invalid, and even to a counter-suit by STEC should the company feel so inclined.

It's a thought that has clearly occurred to STEC: in an official response the company says it is “analysing the claims in this lawsuit” and will “determine if Seagate is misappropriating any of STEC's core technologies,”, threatening to “take appropriate action to protect its interests, including seeking the invalidation of Seagate's patents.

Despite assurances from Watkins that the lawsuit isn't about "stifling innovation", it is certainly interesting that the suit should come shortly after STEC launched its Zeus-IOPS series of devices - SSDs designed to be enterprise-class storage devices, rather than the consumer-level hardware the company is used to producing. Enterprise storage is an arena in which Seagate considers itself a leading light, and it's hard not to draw the conclusion that STEC is being punished for encroaching on turf dear to Seagate's heart.

It's going to be an interesting fight, and with two major companies who clearly have very different ideas about the future of storage and who both have a lot to lose it could shape up to be the lawsuit of the year.

What's your take on the matter: is Seagate simply trying to stifle the market for a product it sees as a threat, or has STEC been dipping its toes in the muddy waters of patent infringement? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

4 Comments

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1ad7 16th April 2008, 08:39 Quote
this doesnt help the consumer either way really. I hope stec has those patents they speak of cause that will really make seagate look like fools
[USRF]Obiwan 16th April 2008, 09:28 Quote
Instead of fighting each other slamming patents on heads. Why not share patents and make money, get happy customers and don't loose millions of dollars in court....
Tim S 16th April 2008, 09:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF
Obiwan]Instead of fighting each other slamming patents on heads. Why not share patents and make money, get happy customers and don't loose millions of dollars in court....

Well, I think Watkins wants to licence the technology, but until what he's calling unauthorised use of IP that Seagate owns is stopped, he's got an obligation to look after his shareholder's best interests.
Arkanrais 16th April 2008, 12:17 Quote
another day, another patent suit
/sigh
/facepalm
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