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NetApp Hits Sun With Patent Infringement Lawsuit 217

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-take-the-law-into-your-own-hands dept.
jcatcw writes "Computerworld reports, "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.""
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NetApp Hits Sun With Patent Infringement Lawsuit

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  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @09:17PM (#20488745)
    Have a look at jcatcw's 100% accepted articles: Yet another ComputerWorld Whore shilling ComputerWorld trip on Slashdot. Does ComputerWorld have some sort of arrangement?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @09:27PM (#20488839)
    I priced a 8.5 Terabyte NetApp dual filer 2050 with FC license vs. a 9TB Sun 6140 vs. a dual controller with an added snapshot license about a month ago, the 2050 was $118,000, the 6140 was $68,000. To make matters worse, the 6140 is a higher end 4GB FC throughout system, the 2050 really competes against the Sun 2140 which are both SAS internal and 4GB FC external. HP EVA 6100 is probably even less! (though I didn't price it)

    Unless you're making a lot of little flexvols for a bunch of apps, or looking for an easy tiered solution, NetApp ain't worth it.
  • by JavaManJim (946878) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @09:45PM (#20488957)
    I hope somehow that sanity prevails in the trial location. Network Applications Inc filed their case in Lufkin TX.

    Lufkin is very long way from anywhere. I live in Dallas TX and Lufkin is a long 3hr 18m trip South and East from here. Yet Network Applications Inc is a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company. Both Sun and Network Applications Inc are based in California.

    Formerly the haven for patent pirates was Marshall TX. The same thing is probably going on in Lufkin TX.

    Check out this article. "A Haven for Patent Pirates In one federal court in East Texas, plaintiffs have such an easy time winning patent-infringement lawsuits against big-tech companies that defendants often choose to settle rather than fight."
    http://www.technologyreview.com/InfoTech-Software/ wtr_16280,300,p1.html?a=f [technologyreview.com]

    May the company with the best case win,
    Jim
  • Ancient ext3 history (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @09:59PM (#20489071) Journal
    I recall when early releases of ext3 appeared someone suggested NetApp might take issue with it due to IP. Daniel Phillips got rather heated about the matter. [kernel-traffic.org] Apparently NetApp didn't pursue anyone over it.

    At least Sun has the means to defend itself.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @10:09PM (#20489127)
    I don't have a very high opinion of software patents, but I have to play devil's advocate and ask, are software patents in general beneficial while we only hear of exceptions where things go very wrong? How would one go about seriously answering this question, anyway?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @10:18PM (#20489207)

    tjstork wrote: Patents don't do anything to benefit the public. Patents were fine in an era before the need for capital became its own barrier to entry in a given market, but, any more, they are not only a relic, but a dangerous, anti-competitive one. Would it be a troll to say anyone who is in favor of patents is really in favor of oligarchy?


    Patents are a mechanism for recouping an investment into research, which may or may not pay off. For example, prior to the successful invention, an inventor may have ten or hundreds of failures, each of which cost time and money. Inventors may have borrowed money to fund research, in which case the lender of the money will be expecting that money back (plus interest). It would be unfair to the inventor if he received ZERO reimbursement for a successful invention while others, such as manufacturers, simply plundered his work.

    The current implementation of the patent system in the United States is definitely in need of an overhaul, but the idea of patents in general is still a good one. I would propose a system whereby an individual or corporation could apply for a certain number of patents per year at a certain fee. If the individual/corporation applies for more patents within the year, then the fee would increase for each extra application.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @10:44PM (#20489397) Journal

    The current implementation of the patent system in the United States is definitely in need of an overhaul, but the idea of patents in general is still a good one. I would propose a system whereby an individual or corporation could apply for a certain number of patents per year at a certain fee. If the individual/corporation applies for more patents within the year, then the fee would increase for each extra application.


    I would also add that if it is discovered that there was obvious prior art, that the company be forced to pay back every nickel of licensing plus interest that they got off of other companies, and be banned for ten years from applying for patents. If they are discovered using third parties to try to sneak further patents past during this period, then they, the third party, and any company on which a board member or executive sits is forever banned from applying for patents.

    Something seriously needs to be done to end patent trolls and patent squatters, and that seems the best way.
  • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @10:57PM (#20489509)
    Its interesting to read one of his other blog postings [netapp.com] that he points out in this blog posting about how he thinks the patent system is broken, and its main goal is to force everyone to cross license patents...

    But I'm torn.. I've been looking at NAS,SAN boxes, mainly the StoreVault S500, or the Higher End Netapp 270, or a lower end Sun StorageTech 52xx for my work.. I hate patents, love ZFS, but not sure which one to order now! Guess I'll have to give Equallogic another call..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2007 @02:58AM (#20491185)
    Which goes to show that patents need to become near commodities. They must be short-term, and cheap enough that anybody can get one. And obviously, the review process must be overhauled.
  • by Vancorps (746090) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:21AM (#20491313)

    You may be right, I've been seeing conflicting reports on the order in which this happened. Honestly though NetApp has been thrashing the whole industry over the last few years, I don't see what they would have to gain by this. Between Oracle and GoDaddy alone there is an enormous amount of NetApp storage out there. NetApp also seems more forthcoming with their side of the story indicating at first glance at least that they have nothing to hide.

    Naturally appearances can be deceiving though. I know my experiences with NetApp have been a lot more positive than my experiences with Sun so perhaps my own bias is showing there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:54AM (#20491479)
    Agree with Guy on this one, you're being sucked in by Marketing claims.. The disks themselves are "Self contained subsystems".. think about it.. is ZFS embedded in the firmware? No? ;-) WAFL and ZFS are end to end as you can be for a *file system*, and they use nearly identical checksumming methods. All well and good, but end to end implies something a little bit more integrated.

      If you read deep down, it's painfully obvious that NetApp has been doing this for awhile, and that it's a pretty big chunk of their secret sauce. This move could be viewed as a Microsoft-esque tactic by Sun to force a competitor out of the market (Netscape anyone?). I don't necessarily think that's the case, but I wouldn't put it by Sun. Storage is huge in terms of $.

              First time I used it it was painfully obvious that ZFS is a WAFL clone, which is why I like it. Having the authors cite chapter and verse that WAFL was their inspiration as opposed to say Transarc show tells me that ZFS didn't bring much in terms of originality to the table though.

        I'm certain this will be settled out of court, but the predatory patent trolling done by the big boys does not bode well for our industry.

  • by miquels (37972) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:10AM (#20491567) Homepage
    In 2000, Daniel Phillips started developing a new Linux filesystem that
    would have many of the features netapps WAFL has, and ZFS has now.

    This filesystem was called Tux2.

    He was quite sure that the patents NetApp had on this weren't valid,
    because of prior art, and because his algorithm was quite
    different and quite a bit smarter:

    http://uwsg.iu.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/0010.0/0 343.html [iu.edu]

    Yet somewhere in 2002, he gave up on Tux2, presumably due to pressure
    from netapp: http://lkml.org/lkml/2002/8/26/138 [lkml.org] .

    I wonder what will happen to BTRFS in light of this new NetApp
    legal action: http://oss.oracle.com/projects/btrfs/ [oracle.com]

    Mike.
  • Lot of corporate fud (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mritunjai (518932) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:24AM (#20491641) Homepage
    NetApp says SUN's lawyers forced them into a corner and tried to extort license fees

    SUN says that NetApp tried to force the patents from them [sun.com] first and they boo-booed them.

    Ah... we might not know who did what first, but I'm definitely annoyed that the lawsuite between two CALIFORNIAN companies is filed in TEXAS court by NetApp... no prizes for guessing that that court is a haven for patent trolls, so I'm more inclined to believe Sun's story here.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @09:28AM (#20493489) Homepage
    Patents aren't meant to "prop up the little guy". They are meant to encourage the disclosure of useful inventions.

    If this were a physical widget, it looks like Netapp would have a clear case. The question is whether or not the genuinely invented something and whether or not Sun has decided to take advantage of what presently belongs to someone else (namely Netapp). Was genuinely creative? Is Sun being a mooch?

    These are real questions. The situation may be a bit more subtle than what a lot of the "knee jerking" might indicate.

    There are two broad categories of patent problems: legitimate patents that stifle subsequent improvements for a time and those patents that simply should never have been granted to begin with.

    The WAFL patents seem to be the former.
  • by teknopurge (199509) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @10:04AM (#20493893) Homepage
    This could be corporate FUD, who knows. But if this is true, I wish Sun well in crushing Netapp.

    [.snip-]

    Thank You, Network Appliance

    We held an investor and analyst conference today in New York City. All in all, a very positive day, lots of momentum and enthusiasm for where we're headed (and apprecation for the progress we've made - new product launches, and all).

    In one of my first investor calls after the event, a large shareholder surprised me though, with, "why do you think NetApps is trying to kill off ZFS?" Er... what? I was totally stunned - it was the first I'd heard that Network Appliance was suing Sun.

    My first response was that NetApps probably needs to read this post carefully - talking about the futility of litigation as a mechanism for proprietary companies to stifle the rise of open source competition.

    Now having had a chance to read some of the statements their CEO made, here are some updates.

    First, Sun did not approach NetApps about licensing any of Sun's patents and never filed complaints against NetApps or demanded anything. ]

    NetApps first approached StorageTek behind the cover of a third party intermediary (yes, it sounds weird, doesn't it?) seeking to purchase STK patents. After Sun acquired STK, we were not willing to sell the patents, We've always been willing to license them. But instead of engaging in licensing discussions, NetApp decided to file a suit to invalidate them. To be clear, we never filed a complaint or threatened to do so, nor did anyone, to the best of my knowledge, in the ZFS community.

    We're all focused on innovation and winning customers, not litigation.

    Second, a word on patents - we use our patent portfolio to protect communities, and indemnify customers - you need only look back to our settlement with Kodak when they attacked the Java community. (That case was heard in Rochester, New York, Kodak's home town, which is a tad different than the East Texas venue Net App appears to have chosen.)

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly (again, read here for why), I'd like to thank our friends at NetApps for ensuring every single customer in their installed base is aware of the outstanding economics offered by ZFS as a file system and storage virtualization platform. Please feel free to (learn more here) and get a free trial Thumper storage device here. At $1.50 per gigabyte - open source storage is about a third the price of competitive offerings, with better performance.

    And Sun indemnifies its customers, so I'd encourage all interested parties to compare the economics of ZFS and Thumper to what you're currently forced to pay - the savings are absolutely shocking.

    The rise of the open source community cannot be stifled by proprietary vendors. I guess not everyone's learned that lesson.

    Posted on 05:00AM Sep 06, 2007

Cobol programmers are down in the dumps.

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