NetApp hits Sun with patent-infringement lawsuit
Seeks halt to development, distribution of Sun's ZFS file system
Computerworld - Network Appliance Inc. today announced that it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Sun Microsystems Inc. seeking unspecified compensatory damages and an injunction that would prohibit Sun from developing or distributing products based on its ZFS file system technology.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Lufkin, Texas, charges that the Sun ZFS technology infringes on seven NetApp patents pertaining to data processing systems and related software.
Dave Hitz, NetApps's founder and executive vice president, said the lawsuit was filed largely because Sun 18 months ago "aggressively demanded" cross-licensing fees related to the Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL) file-system technology included in ZFS. Hitz said the cross-licensing talks were halted in April after Sun claimed that NetApp's use of WAFL infringed on Sun patents.
"Those discussions obviously went nowhere and basically fell silent," he said. "By that time, [the ZFS file system] was in the public domain. They started this discussion by asserting we infringed on their patents and asked us to pay them royalties on their patents." Earlier this year, Sun released the ZFS source code, part of its Solaris operating system, to the open source community, Hitz noted.
Sun declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Hitz said that during its negotiations, Sun did not specify which NetApp products infringed on its patents. However, he noted that Sun did say that most of those patents were gained through its $4.1 billion acquisition of Storage Technology Corp. in 2005.
NetApp has no plans to assert any claims against its own customers or Sun's customers in regards to ZFS or other patent infringement. While Hitz acknowledged that the lawsuit could have implications for the future of ZFS, he declined to elaborate on specific outcomes.
Storage analysts said that a drawn-out legal battle would likely hurt Sun more than NetApp because of the importance of ZFS to Sun's core storage strategy. In addition, analysts pointed out that the case could set legal precedent involving the viability of open-source storage.
Related News and Discussion:
- Sun executive talks up NAS strategy
- FAQ: Is ZFS Apple's secret weapon?
- Sun CEO spills Apple Leopard secret
- Daily IT Blogwatch: Leopard spots a file system (and pirate laws)
Read more about Data Storage in Computerworld's Data Storage Topic Center.
- Server and System Admins Challenged to Keep Up with Storage Explosion Read this whitepaper to learn how administrators are leveraging their existing skills to simplify the management of storage and servers.
- Administrators need an agile platform to usher the new era of enterprise storage Read this whitepaper and learn how administrators are keeping up by guiding their enterprises toward new, software-defined storage platforms that simplify and unify...
- Report: Back Up Critical Cloud Data before It's Too Late Read the February 2014 Forrester Research Inc. Report, Back Up Your Critical Cloud Data Before It's Too Late: Cloud-To-Cloud Backup Emerges As A...
- 5 eDiscovery Challenges Solved eDiscovery challenges continue to present themselves as data storage becomes more complex and grows the Big Data Era. Read this CommVault Solution Brief...
- Vblock™ Specialized System for SAP HANA® Deploy SAP HANA® fast and with low risk. VCE brings together all of the necessary components for SAP HANA® into a single, standardized...
- The Value of Symantec NetBackup Appliances In this video, Symantec's Shelley Schmokel, Principal Product Manager for NetBackup Appliances, talks about the NetBackup Integrated Appliances and how they deliver enterprise-class... All Data Storage White Papers | Webcasts
Computerworld has launched its annual search for outstanding IT leaders who align technology with business goals. Nominate a top IT executive for the 2015 Premier 100 IT Leaders awards now through July 18.