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Compaq, Seagate hit with lawsuit over disk drive technology

By Mathew Schwartz
July 13, 2000 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Convolve Inc., a New York-based maker of patented motion control technology and MIT filed a lawsuit today seeking $800 million in damages against Compaq Computer Corp. and Seagate Technology Inc. The plaintiffs are accusing the companies of patent infringement on their disk drive technology.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, comes on the heels of Seagate's June 7 announcement of its new Sound Barrier Technology, which is to be incorporated into hard drives on forthcoming Compaq computers starting next month.
The lawsuit alleges that Houston-based Compaq and Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Seagate misappropriated Convolve's Quick and Quiet technology, which allows disk drives to run more efficiently and quietly. Quick and Quiet was created using patented technology under license by Convolve from MIT, which as licensee was obligated to join in the lawsuit. Convolve says Compaq and Seagate officials first saw the technology more than a year ago after signing nondisclosure agreements with Convolve.
A Seagate spokesman said the company would not comment on the lawsuit until it had seen a copy of it. A Compaq spokesperson wasn't available for comment by deadline for this report.
According to the suit, Convolve seeks "to prevent Compaq and Seagate from stealing Convolve's proprietary computer disk technology." Convolve is seeking at least $800 million in damages and a permanent injunction barring Seagate or Compaq from selling any products that incorporate Sound Barrier Technology.
The motion-dampening technology that Convolve licenses was first developed in 1989 by three MIT professors, one of whom founded the company.
"It is important technology as disk drives get larger -- especially in home PCs -- for performance," said William Hurley, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston. Convolve claims its Quick and Quiet technology allows a disk drive to operate up to 15% faster with quieter-than-normal operation and up to 20% faster without regard for noise.
The effect of the lawsuit on corporate PC users remains unclear. The technology, said Hurley ,"isn't so radical in its current incarnation that it will stop the flow of PCs that come out from Compaq."

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