EMC, Hitachi Bury Litigation Hatchet

EMC and Hitachi , whose
subsidiaries compete with EMC in the storage sector, Tuesday settled pending
patent infringement litigation.

Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC had been in legal spats with rival Tokyo’s
Hitachi over the last year, but now it seems the companies have patched
things up well enough to the point that the settlement includes five-year
cross licensing agreements with some of the very same technology that had
been addressed in litigation. Under terms of the detente, Hitachi will make
balancing payments of an undisclosed amount to EMC. Additional terms of the
cross-licensing agreements, between subsidiaries Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and Hitachi Computer Products, were not disclosed.

Moreover, EMC and Hitachi agreed to devise a framework for exchanging
application programming interfaces (APIs), which the firms said in a public
statement will benefit each other’s customers.

To be sure, API exchanges are seen as smart strategic moves by industry
analysts because they enable software developers to write applications that
will run on competitors’ machines and manage them. EMC, often credited with
igniting the API exchange trend a few years ago, inked a
similar pact with rival Veritas Software just yesterday.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to resolve these issues in a way that
upholds our principles and encourages future innovation,” said Joe Tucci,
EMC President and CEO. “The customers of both EMC and Hitachi, who rely on
our respective information storage technologies, are the real winners.”

EMC, who for years enjoyed sole dominance of the high-end storage market for
large corporations until Hitachi entered, touched off the patent war against
Hitachi and Hitachi Data Systems in April 2002, with
the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) and U.S. District
Court in Massachusetts.

Also quashed were patent infringement counterclaims filed by Hitachi and
Hitachi Computer Products (America) Inc. against EMC in the same month, in
the same district court. The proceeding was scheduled to go to an
evidentiary hearing in this month. All subject patents are included in the
patent cross-license.

EMC recently endured another high-profile suit/countersuit in 2002 versus HP, despite enjoying API swaps with each other.

Patent infringement and copyright quibbles are nothing new in the complex world of high technology, and most major firms who encounter competition along the way find themselves in court soon enough. Just ask Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, or Microsoft and Lindows.com.

But most patent experts say the difficulty starts with how a patent is originally granted, or rather, what the semantics of the terms are. For example, Microsoft has accused upstart Lindows.com of treading on its “Windows” brand, claiming ownership of the way the word “windows” is used in the technology space.

Lindows.com is fighting this issue in court and it was just announced that the case has been continued to December 2003, giving Lindows.com more time to defend itself, and Microsoft more time to renew its offensive.

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