Quantum, StorageTek Trade Legal Bullets

Entrenched storage tape drive vendors Quantum and Storage Technology (StorageTek)
have swapped patent infringement complaints in their local district

Milpitas, Calif.’s Quantum struck first this week, filing a complaint in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California alleging that StorageTek has engaged in the
illegal making and selling of tape and tape drive products that infringe two
separate Quantum patents in the U.S.

Then Louisville, Colo.’s StorageTek followed up with essentially the same claim in a patent infringement suit filed against Quantum in the U.S. District Court in Denver.

Quantum is seeking an injunction against the future sale of StorageTek 9840 and 9940
products based on its DLTape drive brand patents, U.S. 5,474,253, issued in
December 1995, and U.S. 4,809,110, issued in February 1989.

John Gannon, president of Quantum’s DLTtape Group, said months of haggling
to reach an “amicable solution” failed.

“Unfortunately, this effort was unsuccessful, and we felt we had no choice
but to initiate legal action to defend and protect our intellectual
property, which is a critical element of our DLTtape storage products and
technologies,” Gannon said in a statement.

Quantum holds more than one hundred patents relating to its DLTtape
technology, which is the standard for backup, archiving, and data recovery. Though only two products were named in the suit at this time, a Quantum spokesperson said “we’re exploring if possibly there are others.”

StorageTek, too, is seeking an injunction against the sale of Quantum Super
DLT products based on its patents going forward. Moreover, StorageTek is also
seeking damages in royalty payments from Quantum against prior sales of its
Super DLT product, including three times as many damages for willful
violations of its patents. The StorageTek patents allegedly infringed by
Quantum are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,236,529 and 6,549,363.

A StorageTek spokesperson downplayed Quantum’s claims.

“They stem from a 15-year old patent related to tape heads in a technology we no longer use and another patent which relates to tape reels, which we don’t believe we infringe and which is invalid in any event because tape reels had this characteristic well prior to the Quantum patent,” the spokesperson said.

Like Quantum, StorageTek said it tried to solve the dispute out of court
last fall. However, Mark Roellig, StorageTek vice president and general
counsel, said Quantum never raised any claims against StorageTek. Instead,
Roellig claimed Quantum filed its suit in anticipation of being sued.

“It was our hope to resolve this dispute through private good faith
negotiations,” Roellig said. “Quantum has now elected to file a frivolous
complaint on two unrelated patents, apparently anticipating an unfavorable
resolution of our negotiations. StorageTek will now take the affirmative
enforcement of our intellectual property rights to court.”

Such preemptive suits, and patent infringement claims, are commonplace in an
industry where technological innovation evolves quickly.

For example, wireless software company Good Technology last year filed
a patent infringement claim against wireless e-mail provider RIM last May, in what was seen as a “preemptive” suit over RIM’s popular Blackberry wireless e-mail devices. The fight has since become a protracted legal battle between two
wireless gadget and software makers trying to save their customers. RIM went
on to sue Good four separate times in less than six months and is trying
to take Good to trial.

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