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