StorageTek Fishes for Catchphrase Trademark

Every sector in the technology industry has its own lexicon of catch phrases, and storage is no different. A couple of years ago it was Bluefin for storage management specifications and iSCSI for IP-based data storage linking. Now it’s ATA (advanced technology attachment) and information lifecycle management, or ILM.

But while the first three are technology-specific buzzwords in the data storage industry, ILM is a sizzling catchphrase that many vendors are using to describe the process of
managing data from its inception until its storage and ultimate demise.

EMC made ILM the driving point of its financial
analyst conference
in August while HP
the formation of an ILM division last week. But one company,
tape drive manufacturer StorageTek, believes it can make a case that it can
procure a trademark for the phrase. Accordingly, the company has recently
filed for trademark protection on “Information Lifecycle Management.”

StorageTek spokesman Joe Fuentes told it’s too early to tell if the trademark will be granted because the process can take as
long as two years “but filing gives us the right to use the trademark

The issue in some ways bears resemblance to the furor open-source operating system
maker Lindows sparked two years ago when it burst onto the
scene with an operating system that sounded a lot like Microsoft’s Windows. In that case, Microsoft moved to get an injunction granted against the then-startup, arguing that Lindows should not be able to capitalize on the term “windows.” But a judge shot it down, agreeing with Lindows’ defense that the term “windows” is too common in computing.

Wouldn’t a trademark committee reach a similar conclusion about the ILM term, given its wide use already?

“If you search Google for Information Lifecycle
Management you get 571 responses,” said StorageTek’s Fuentes. “The first full page mentioned StorageTek’s Leadership in Information Lifecycle Management several times (plus a hit or two on EMC).”

Fuentes also stressed that StorageTek is looking to corral the full phrase Information Lifecycle Management — not the acronym ILM.

“And by the way, anyone who thinks they own ‘ILM’ will have
to take it up with George Lucas and Industrial Light and Magic,” Fuentes said.

Some storage analysts find StorageTek’s bid laughable. Enterprise
Storage Group (ESG) Analyst Steve Kenniston said StorageTek apprised him of
their plans for a trademark last week.

“There is no need to do this. In the “CURRENT” day, ESG invented/resurrected
this term to define how People/Process/Technology all play a key role in
turning IT into a value center by creating a utility within the data
center,” Kenniston told “Ultimately, ILM will take
on several meaning to many vendors but at the end of the day its about
combining people process and technology to create value within IT – pretty
hard to trademark.”

Vendors such as EMC and HP, who have both employed the ILM expression, aren’t crazy about StorageTek’s claim to the phrase.

“We continue to use the term ILM in a descriptive sense to describe our strategy and approach to storage,” an EMC spokesperson told “We believe StorageTek’s attempt to trademark information lifecycle management is an attempt to trademark an industry trend. As an example, it would be like any company trying to trademark NAS or SAN . We think it’s especially difficult to do especially when companies have been using it so much lately.”

Responding to questions about StorageTek’s bid, HP dismissed the
company’s attempt to register the “hugely fashionable buzz-word “Information
Lifecycle Management” as a company trademark.

“HP believes that StorageTek will be unsuccessful in its attempts to use the
international trademark registration system to trademark ”information
lifecycle management”, which is widely considered an established,
industry-standard term,” the company said in a statement. “Our own research
shows that the term dates back to 1996 and possibly earlier. … it is
industry momentum around “information lifecycle management” that led HP to
adopt the term. HP will vigorously defend any attempt to prevent the use of
this term.”

HP said ILM has been broadly adopted by many vendors and analysts to
describe the process of generating, storing, routing, retrieving and
archiving information through various technologies based on its changing
business relevance and usage over time.

StorageTek, Fuentes pointed out, has its own definition for ILM.

“Our strategy is based on the recognition that all information does not have
equal value. To create a sustainable storage management strategy customers
need to understand the value of their information and align storage costs
with information’s value. Your storage strategy must adapt, or you pay too
much to store information that has a declining purpose and value,” goes the
company’s creed. “The objective of Information Lifecycle Management(tm) is
to help our customers understand the value of their information and align it
with the appropriate point along the storage hierarchy.”

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