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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 tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @08:12PM (#20488683) Homepage Journal
    How does the patent in this case "promote the useful arts and sciences." 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?
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @08:19PM (#20488769)
      any more than complaining about gravity will make it go away. We have a broken patent system which is driven by the practitioners of the patent system for the benefit of those practitioners. In other words, those who have the power to change the system are the most likely to lose from any changes so there is very little motiovation to make any changes. We could go on about how bad the system is, but that is irrelevant in the courts. That a law is stupid is unfortunately not a valid defence.

      The only thing that matters here is whether prior art can be forund for WAFL.

      • by Paradigm_Complex (968558) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @11:40PM (#20490343)
        The day gravity is an artificial man-made creation, something that is fully within man's ability to "make go away," your statement will be fine. For now, though, our control over Gravity is quite limited, whereas sufficiently well-placed discussions could in fact change the patent system. Perhaps not arguing about it on /. alone, no, but if you can bring the issue to the general (less-educated) public's attention, you may very well change it through discussion. The current problem with fixing the patent system is, almost in its entirety, the sheer lack of discussion.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by pD-brane (302604)

        We could go on about how bad the system is, but that is irrelevant in the courts.
        That is correct, for the most part. IANAL, but isn't it so that even though the law is a set of axioms you have to comply to, there is room for a judge to interpret things one way or the other? Isn't it also true that sometimes new laws are written in the court room?
    • by MikePlacid (512819) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @09:01PM (#20489075)
      Here is the original complaint (PDF): http://www.netapp.com/go/ipsuit/spider-complaint.p df [netapp.com] .
      And here is NetApp's boss blog: http://blogs.netapp.com/dave/ [netapp.com] (quoted below):

      This morning, NetApp filed an IP (intellectual property) lawsuit against Sun. It has two parts. The first is a "declaratory judgment", asking the court to decide whether we infringe a set of patents that Sun claims we do. The second says that Sun infringes several of our patents with its ZFS technology.

      How did we get here?

      Like many large technology companies, Sun has been using its patent portfolio as a profit center. About 18 months ago, Sun's lawyers contacted NetApp with a list of patents they say we infringe, and requested that we pay them lots of money. We responded in two ways. First, we closely examined their list of patents. Second, we identified the patents in our portfolio that we believe Sun infringes.

      With respect to Sun's patent claims, our lawsuit explains that we do not infringe, and - in fact - that they are not even valid. As a result, we don't think we should be paying Sun millions of dollars.

      On the flip side, our suit points out that Sun's ZFS appears to infringe several of NetApp's WAFL patents. It looks like ZFS was a conscious reimplementation of our WAFL filesystem, with little regard to intellectual property rights. Here's what creators of ZFS have to say: "The file system that has come closest to our design principles, other than ZFS itself, is WAFL ... the first commercial file system to use the copy-on-write tree of blocks approach to file system consistency." One of the first patents I filed at NetApp describes this "copy-on-write tree of blocks" technique in detail.

      We filed suit against Sun because after we pointed out the WAFL patents, their lawyers stopped getting back to us. The first part of our suit is a declaratory judgment. It's complicated, but the basic idea is that Sun claims we infringe their patents, so we are requesting a trial to show that's not true. In essence, a declaratory judgment calls their bluff. It allows us to force a legal conclusion, rather than leaving this threat hanging over our heads. The second part is a complaint against Sun for infringing several WAFL patents with ZFS.

      • The solution is simple. Immediately invalidate all software patents. Get rid of them completely. Hence, no need for these ludicrous portfolios, filled largely by absolutely useless patents.

        The only people that get hurt is the consumer, who has to pay all these pathetic lawyers and their pathetic clients gazillions, either in protection money against this racket, or in court battles over ridiculous things like linked-list file systems and outrageously vague one-click patents.

        The system is broke, and the w
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumRiff (120817)
        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 Vancorps (746090) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @10:23PM (#20489701)

          We recently began a deployment of a couple of NetApp filers, the 2040 and 3040 ranges. They are mighty great to work with from my experience so far. The software is very easy to use and understand and NetApp support has been stellar thus far. They move a lost faster than EMC from the looks although EMC's storage offerings are mighty impressive as well.

          Storage is a rough business but the SAN I'm deploying this year paves the way for virtualized servers next year which I'm excited about. With VMWare's ACE I'm not even sure Tripwire is needed anymore.

          Also it seems as though NetApp was rather nice about this whole patent thing from the get go. It wasn't until Sun threatened them that they acted and again acted fairly preferring a cross licensing deal rather than any cash payout in either direction.

          Sun support in my experience has been a pain in the ass. I remember trying to modify the startup resolution on a box since I didn't have a Sun monitor or keyboard. They would not help me over the phone since it was a none Sun keyboard even though they had no problem with a non-Sun monitor. I did a key mash to figure out the stop key on boot to get me in. That was the last time I played with anything from Sun. That was about 4 years ago. Mileage may vary but I've not heard anything positive more recently. I am a fan of ZFS though, I wish it weren't mired in this crap but Sun started the fight and attacked a gorilla. The reaction had to be expected.

          • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

            by rossifer (581396)
            Here's another vote for NetApp. They're expensive, but they just work. Their support is excellent as well. We had multiple incidents over four years and they were simply on top of the situation, helping us resolve problems that almost always turned out to be because of things we'd done to the system.
          • by Bakafish (114674) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @12:30AM (#20490725) Homepage

            Also it seems as though NetApp was rather nice about this whole patent thing from the get go. It wasn't until Sun threatened them that they acted and again acted fairly preferring a cross licensing deal rather than any cash payout in either direction.


            It's a nice story, but Sun is claiming the exact opposite actually happened, with NetApp trying to extort them over ZFS first. On a purely intuitive basis I'd say that sounds more reasonable, NetApp has much more to fear from ZFS than Sun had to gain by trying to extort some licensing fees.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Vancorps (746090)

              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 expe

            • by pedantic bore (740196) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @04:57AM (#20492131)

              According to the filing, this dispute originated with a claim by StorageTek, which was later bought by Sun (and Sun decided to continue to claim). Tracing the timeline, it's clear that Sun was trying to squeeze money out of NetApp before ZFS ever shipped.

              It's also alledged, in the filing, that NetApp is more concerned about the fact that Sun is giving away ZFS and its snapshot IP, which NetApp claims are its own. NetApp was OK with letting ZFS use this technology, but not with Sun giving it away to everyone else via OpenSolaris.

          • by Usagi_yo (648836)

            Sun support in my experience has been a pain in the ass. I remember trying to modify the startup resolution on a box since I didn't have a Sun monitor or keyboard. They would not help me over the phone since it was a none Sun keyboard even though they had no problem with a non-Sun monitor. I did a key mash to figure out the stop key on boot to get me in.

            You bought a used and partial Sun system off the secondary market, then you thought Sun was supposed to automaticaly support you?

            BTW: They key you needed was the "Any" key.

            • by Vancorps (746090)

              No, it was a brand new Sun box, the school didn't want to pay for the extras since it was already absurdly priced. Also, unless you're doing a 100k+ deal with them they barely give you the time of day if you are lucky.

              I wasn't saying that was necessarily true of all Sun support but I've heard a lot of problem run into road blocks with them along similar grounds. You have to have specific combinations of products despite using standardized interfaces so any keyboard will work since it's USB but for some re

        • by GoRK (10018)
          I would put in my NetApp vote as well; they are awesome for NAS, particularly if you have a need for both NFS and CIFS and then even moreso if you need both NFS and CIFS access to the same data concurrently. Once you learn ONTAP and get your head around what NetApp calls everything: 'aggr' 'vol' etc. you will find the machines extremely capable, but unfortunately extremely expensive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Guy Harris (3803)

        And here is NetApp's boss blog

        Dave's one of the founders, but he's not the CEO or president, he's an executive vice president, as per the NetApp executive biographies page [netapp.com].

      • In England, what NetApp appears to be doing is called shouting Get Your Tanks Off My Lawn. NetApp says this is aimed at Sun and only Sun - not customers. What is their track record?
      • by hjf (703092)

        Here's what creators of ZFS have to say: "The file system that has come closest to our design principles, other than ZFS itself, is WAFL ... the first commercial file system to use the copy-on-write tree of blocks approach to file system consistency." One of the first patents I filed at NetApp describes this "copy-on-write tree of blocks" technique in detail.

        So, when Microsoft files a patent for "a software that manages the sharing of the resources of a computer" [wikipedia.org] everyone is fucked. That's the problem: all

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by noidentity (188756)
      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?
      • Again, from NetApp's boss blog: http://blogs.netapp.com/dave/2007/06/how_the_paten t_.html [netapp.com] (I really like this guy, having read 2 articles):

        Don't patents ever protect your good ideas?! In theory, they should, but in practice it doesn't usually work that way. Suppose your small company wants to protect its ideas against a big company. Filing suit will accelerate the cross-licensing negotiation, and you'll probably end up paying. Better to let sleeping dogs lie. Patent battles between small companies work poo
      • are software patents in general beneficial while we only hear of exceptions where things go very wrong?

        it depends on how they are used, in this case they're being used against their original purpose. instead of giving a company a small advantage in their market to encourage future research they're being used as M.A.D weapons. useful innovative combinations of software/code never get to be used because it's infringing on someone's copyright. patents are instead supposed to prevent one person/company from

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jedidiah (1196)
          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 jerki
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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 hav

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MightyMartian (840721)

        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 comp

        • There is already a mechanism in place to deal with dishonest patent applications. Any attorney or patent agent who does not fully disclose prior art that he or she has discovered can and most likely will be disbarred. The problem isn't people lying about prior art. The problem is that prior art just isn't accessible, even though it does exist.
    • I wonder who modded you troll?
    • by 71thumper (107491)
      So you'd prefer the model where you come up with a cool idea, develop it, go to sell it, and then a big company can just hire 200 people to replicate it and sell it for near peanuts and you end up getting nothing for your work?

      Sorry. Patents are good things. Without patents, he who has money rules the world forever.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Vancorps (746090)
        As opposed to the situation now? He who has the money makes the rules, that's the system we currently use. Those with the most money have the most patents and can sue anyone into oblivion. Surely there has to be some middle ground here.
        • As opposed to the situation now? He who has the money makes the rules, that's the system we currently use. Those with the most money have the most patents and can sue anyone into oblivion. Surely there has to be some middle ground here.

          There's a difference between the concept of patents and the current patent administration in the United States. If we managed to implement the system that we originally had 200+ years ago, we'd be in much better shape. I haven't looked at the patents relating to this case, so I can't say for sure if they fall into this category, but getting rid of the truly obvious software patents (I'm looking at you, one-click purchasing) would go a long way towards fixing the system.

          • by Vancorps (746090)

            I agree completely. Reducing patent lengths to say three years which I believe was where it was originally would go a long way towards ending the problem. I think of course the same should happen for copyrights but I can see copyrights having a slightly longer possibly 7 year term although that seems too long for me.

            I think everyone can agree that in it's current form the system has been polluted and no longer serves its intended purpose.

      • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @11:12PM (#20490077) Homepage Journal
        That's the whole point. If I invent a product, chances are, in order to really get it out, I will probably wind up infringing on someone else's patent in order to get a complete solution.

        For example, let's say I have a revolutionary new programming language. Great stuff, but, ultimately, it will need a bunch of existing technologies to make it work. I'll need parse trees, string manipulations, code generation, and hey, why not an IDE, all of which are covered by a bazillion patents already.

        So, if I bring my product to market, the best I can possibly hope for is a cross licensing agreement with a major player, and that in turn, means they can crush me. Or, they can work around my patent in some way, still get the feature, and crush me. Patents don't protect ideas, unless you have a lot of very good patent attorneys and those cost big bucks.

        In the world of machines, this doesn't happen. If I invent a new kind of a screw, its pretty obvious that the screw is a patentable thing. But software doesn't exist at that level of componentry and most likely never will. It simply can't. Software wants to integrate and to some extent, that makes it unique from the physical world. You don't need to integrate a particular kind of screw into every single socket and with every single tool, but ultimately, with software, you do wind up having to talk to every kind of protocol, database, and GUI, and in doing so, you wind up flying into a hailstorm of patents.

        Seriously, when's the last time anyone has actually checked to see if they infringe before they write something? Only a big company can really afford to do it. Face it, the idea of a little guy with a software patent is a myth, 95% of the time, and its simply not worth the cost to the rest of us - even if we work in a big corporation.
    • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @10:34PM (#20489795) Homepage
      Patents aren't the problem. Software and Business Method patents are. To fix the patent system:
      1. No more business method or software patents. Physical systems only.
      2. Anything you patent, you must come up with a prototype or model within a reasonable amount of time. No working model or currently achievable design, no patent.

      If you can't create the model or design, or come up with a means to do so, too bad, no patent. Ideas are simple. Making something of them is what patents are supposed to protect.

      Software is not a physical thing. Why a need to patent? You really shouldn't be able to patent math or the way that you apply it. Copyright, sure, but not patent.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PCM2 (4486)

        Ideas are simple. Making something of them is what patents are supposed to protect.

        I'm not so sure that's true. What about the brilliant inventor who comes up with a very complicated system but has no capital with which to finance a prototype? Seems to me that patents would come in pretty handy in such a situation. Sans patent, you could spend five years searching around for independent financing while GE, which got wind of your idea somehow, has been working on developing it and refining it. Given five

        • by Colin Smith (2679) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:28AM (#20491673)
          Ideas are cheap. Patents are not.

          If he has no cash to build a prototype, how is he going to pay for a patent portfolio?

          In the UK, it costs £200 to have a patent processed by the Patent Office, but there is an additional (approx) £3000 to have your patent drafted/checked by an agent against existing patents and translated into legalese. This £3000 is for each country that you want to apply for a patent. 20 countries, approx £60,000. Minimum. If you don't apply worldwide, the big guy, will simply take your patent and build and sell your product in the rest of the world.

          Then, once you have your patent. The big guy sets his reverse engineering team on it, they find a slightly different way of doing the same job, and all your patents are useless. Go ahead, just try and sue that multi billion dollar organisation, see what happens to your house, job and family.

          If you're a brilliant inventor with no money, you're pretty much fucked unless you can license your technology to a someone with deep pockets and who are reasonably honourable. Patents protect large organisations who can afford to roll them out worldwide... And patent lawyer's jobs.

          They are not there for the small fry.
           
        • by alexhs (877055)

          What about the brilliant inventor who comes up with a very complicated system but has no capital with which to finance a prototype?

          I think there are lots of precedents where industrials were waiting for the patent to expire before doing the implementation, so it's of no use for the inventor.

          So, well, I don't think there's another practical solution other than finding someone to finance him (by employing him in a R&D department or by financing him).

          BTW, in some countries there are innovation agencies (like Oseo [www.oseo.fr] (ex Anvar) in France), whose goal is to help those brilliant inventors and start-ups.

        • by Pecisk (688001)
          In fact, it is overblown "fairness". I guess then why we don't compensate inventors of alphabet, decimal system, etc. Every inventor stands on the shoulders of it's ancestors and that's fine - that is HOW human race advances. Open source advancement in various areas shows that exchange of ideas trumps any private gain.

          So it is fair? Maybe not, but who again can say what is fair and what is not? If you don't have money to implement your idea, then strike down deal with company who does, eventually in agreeme
    • Well, NetApp is pissed that someone like Sun would use a similar function to their "snapshots", as ZFS allows for a very similar snapshot backup to be made as the built in "snapshots" that NetApp has in their NAS storage hardware. However, I don't know how a patent could have been given for such a process, as "diff" and "patch" files have existed LONG before NetApp. It was only obvious before someone merged that functionality into a filesystem, and had the filesystem keep the diff and patch the file on the
      • by makomk (752139)
        Apparently, it's more than that. Someone upthread pointed out this blog post [netapp.com] by one of the NetApp staff. ZFS doesn't just implement the same features as NetApp's WAFL file system, the way it implements them is the same too, and Sun staff have said that they were more than a little inspired by it.
    • by ajs (35943)

      How does the patent in this case "promote the useful arts and sciences."

      Actually, I see NetApp as a great example of how patents on software can be useful. They developed some very unique ways of managing network-accessible data, and improved on the state of the art dramatically. Had the duration of their patents been reasonable for the industry (typically this means about 3-4x the period that it takes to get an idea developed and brought to market), then there would be no problem. The fact of the matter is that NetApp got those patents forever ago in this industry's timeline,

    • by be-fan (61476)
      I generally think patents are overused, but I do think there is a place for them. I work for a company whose major asset is IP we've spent five years and millions of dollars developing. When we're done developing the technology, one of our sources of revenue will be licensing the tech to (much larger) companies that can build commercial products with it. Without patent protection, thee companies could just wait while we take the risk to develop the tech, then use it for free.

      Companies like Rambus have given
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @08:15PM (#20488715) Homepage Journal

    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.
    You got gun? I got gun too! Maybe I come round your place with my friends, shoot it up a bit.

    How you like that?

  • 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?
    • I don't blame them, really. If you are a professionnal blogger (read former print journalist) the more traffic you can generate for your site, the more you make. Get it posted on /. or digg or wherever and watch the traffic flow.
  • A better article... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @08:25PM (#20488825)
    ...appears on The Register. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/09/05/netapp_sue s_sun_over_zfs/ [theregister.co.uk]

    This actually mentions the specific technologies NetApp is alleging are infringed, and contains a link to the actual complaint, which lists the details of NetApp's allegations.

    Cursory reading suggests these are somewhat reasonable patents--they solve non-obvious critical issues in terms of having data synchronized across multiple images. We're not talking about "One-Click Ordering" here.

    That said, they filed in East Texas, which is a notorious district for patent trolling, which doesn't help them appear on the side of the angels IMO.
    • I am sorry, but there is no such thing as a reasonable 'software' patent. No software should have ever been offered this protection.

      Copyrights, are enough. And even copyrights don't need to be life + 70 years.

      This is insane.

      Patents really should be limited to things like the Cotton Gin, or steam engine thrust arms. And , I think the patent office should go back to demanding scale models of those things.

      Ugh
  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @08:37PM (#20488915)

    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.
    Demanded cross-licensing fees? What does that even mean? Licensing fees perhaps, but it seems like Sun was after a cross-licensing agreement; not seeking to drag NetApp into court like some patent troll.

    It sounds more like both Sun and NetApp are infringing on each others patents, and Sun simply wanted to formally resolve this in order to be on the safe side. This article seems awfully one-sided though, and the way the quote is paraphrased, it looks like the author is more interested in dragging Sun's name through the mud than presenting the facts.
    • Demanded cross-licensing fees? What does that even mean? Licensing fees perhaps, but it seems like Sun was after a cross-licensing agreement; not seeking to drag NetApp into court like some patent troll.

      Well. Not sure of the timeline of events, but the open sourcing of a cross licensed thing is often directly at odds with what the cross license is envisioned to do: create a cartel.

      C//
  • by JavaManJim (946878) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @08:45PM (#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
    • NetApp is a real life company that sells products. Sun tried to patent-bully NetApp and NetApp found out it had patents of its own that Sun was infringing.

      The Eastern District of Texas was a popular place for IP litigation because of its so-called "rocket docket" that accelerated trials and Patent Local Rules that forced disclosure of relevant information by both parties. Discovery in a patent case is an expensive enterprise. Not only do you have to prove conception of the invention, you have to disclose a
      • You may be right on Lufkin being located within the Western District of Texas. Even though its actually deep in the Eastern piney woods of Texas. Reason is, sometimes in Texas, election districts are stretched so that narrow corridors link other areas (i.e. gerrymandering).

        Just kidding of course,
        Jim
      • by Darth (29071)
        Lufkin is in Angelina County and is part of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
      • The Western District of Texas recently taken up Local Patent Rules modeled after Judge Ward's Eastern District model. I bet Lufkin is in the W.D. Tex.

        You'd lose that bet. Lufkin's in the Lufkin Division of the Eastern District of Texas [uscourts.gov].

  • Ancient ext3 history (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @08:59PM (#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 makomk (752139)
      Actually, that was about another, non-journalling Ext2 based filesystem called Tux2. I'm not entirely sure what happened to it, but it looks like it got abandoned due to fear of a patent lawsuit [kernel-traffic.org]. A shame, because it would've been neat - think ZFS minus the storage layer. (Also, it looks like the author of Tux2 came up with the idea independently of NetApp, whereas it's not clear this is the case with ZFS.)
  • I kept considering implementing a WAFL-lite for Linux, but found the patents right away. Then along comes ZFS a few years later and it seemed like my problems were solved, someone else decided to take on the many patents around WAFL's good ideas. Saves me the lawyer fees that I cannot afford, although I would not have minded the publicity.
  • NetApp invented the snapshot, what a crock of shit. SCO, part 2 the revenge.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tokki (604363)
      To be fair, Sun did start the patent trolling.
      • by demi (17616) *

        Perhaps both sets of patents could be invalidated, then. I suspect very much that somewhere someone developed a database technology with copy-on-write with an advancing root block; I don't, however, have actual knowledge of that. It's just based on the pattern of database technology trickling down to filesystems and memory storage.

    • I saw my very first implementation of a snapshot-capable filesystem in a NetApp filer way back in summer of 1996. That was eleven years ago. I'd never seen anything like it before in my I.T. career. If NetApp didn't invent it, then who did? Sun sure didn't have anything like that in 1996, they only had the plain old UFS and LVM's from DiskSuite and Veritas.
    • Re:Apparently (Score:4, Informative)

      by Vancorps (746090) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @10:44PM (#20489873)

      Except that you are clearly ignorant about NetApp snapshots. They are very different from snapshots from other providers. I recently evaluated SANs from HP, EMC, and NetApp. NetApp was the most original and offered a lot of unique features including their snapshot technology. It's very non-obvious their implementation of it.

      Here's a link to educate(PDF) [cosentry.com]

      And another Bunch of white papers [zdnet.co.uk] explaining why Oracle went with NetApp storage. There is a similar list for GoDaddy

      NetApp is not SCO, they are only acting because Sun threatened them. They are most innovative big company I've seen in recent years. Their WAFL implementation is pretty damned impressive especially when combined with Flexclone and their other Snapshot products.

    • Nobody is claiming that NetApp invented snapshots. Well, nobody sane.

      What NetApp did patent is a really elegant and efficient way to implement snapshots.

      Read the patents ...

  • If it were all for the benefit of the public, the Plaintiff in this case would simply sit down and shut up. We would have never heard of the wonderful benefits of ZFS had everything (allegedly) stayed with this company I have never heard of. Instead of bitching and whining and patent trolling [cough]SCO[cough], they could work with Sun to better ZFS (if that's even possible) and let Sun sell the hell out of it.

    But that won't happen. After all, trolling is all the rage these days.
    • by SEE (7681)
      Sun went demanding license fees for its patent portfolio from NetApp. NetApp has responded with a lawsuit asking for the court to say that it isn't violating Sun's patents, and counterattacking by claiming Sun is violating NetApp patents. It's a classic defensive use of a patent portfolio against a bully, and I hope they rip Sun a new hole that just gushes money.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by gujo-odori (473191)
        I doubt this will actually come to trial. I suspect NetApp is just playing the MAD card here to come to some kind "I'm OK, you're OK" cross-licensing deal. As TFA notes, Sun opened this can of worms by claiming NetApp was infringing on Sun patents. If they'd left well enough alone, they wouldn't be getting sued now. When all is said and done, they'll probably be back at their prior status quo. Sun is schizo; they don't know whether to open-source everything they've got, or sue someone over everything they'v
      • by amorsen (7485)
        Sun went demanding license fees for its patent portfolio from NetApp. NetApp has responded with a lawsuit asking for the court to say that it isn't violating Sun's patents, and counterattacking by claiming Sun is violating NetApp patents.

        The only source of that is NetApp so far. It's very hard for third parties like us to find out what really happened. The only fact we really have is that NetApp brought out the big guns. Possibly for good reasons, possibly not, but either way it's certainly an escalation. I
  • I have a F760 fiber channel filer that was made back in 1999 running a WAFL (ontap 6.x now) OS. Funny how Sun didn't 'notice' the infringement until they made their own version of WAFL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZFS [wikipedia.org] in 2005. Even funnier that the creators of ZFS claim that WAFL is the "closest" file system to their own. All we have to do is look at the dates here people. Netapp has been using WAFL for almost a decade in production systems. I'm no fan of Netapp because they want to charge for copies o
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mindslut (1152625)
      A couple of themes I hear are that software shouldn't be patentable (fair premise) and that some people wish NetApp technology were cheaper (who would not prefer cheaper?) ... what kind of surprises me is that hardly anyone seems to know NetApp, where y'all been? WAFL is 15 years old ('92), and the snapshot only about a year younger.

      If ZFS seems to mimic WAFL, as I hear, I'd say that's a tribute to NetApp engineering, but NetApp is the Rodney Dangerfield in IT (no respect, I tell ya). I find it dishearten
      • As the AC said, NetApp is expensive. Things like Minix, Linux and BSD made UNIX popular because anyone could cheaply get a copy and lay with it. Meanwhile, better systems like VMS are unpopular because they only run on expensive hardware, even if they free for non-commercial use (and even that's only recent).

        The same is true of Java Vs Lisp. Java was free from the start and easy to run on Windows (which most people use, even if they don't like it). Lisp popularity has started to pick up again since a

  • ...all those who haven't grasped the revolution inherent in ZFS yet.

    The most compelling feature of ZFS is something that no storage appliance, RAID, or other self-contained subsystem can offer - end-to-end integrity.

    Let's hope this doesn't chill Solaris 10 and ZFS adoption, because there's nothing else quite like it out there.
    • by Guy Harris (3803)

      The most compelling feature of ZFS is something that no storage appliance, RAID, or other self-contained subsystem can offer - end-to-end integrity.

      I presume you mean something other than "they checksum blocks and store the checksums on disk" by "end-to-end integrity", because NetApp were doing that before ZFS hit the streets.

  • Well, I can only say im sadened by both Sun and Netapp really. With any luck they'll both end up invalidating each other patents. I really hope that is the case.

    ZFS is a nice fs (even if the linux implementation is going to be sadly lacking).
    • If the patents around WAFL/ZFS went away, a kernel-level ZFS/WAFL-like implementation would be possible without concerns over the patents. However, my suspicion is that the two parties would ultimately settle out-of-court before risking such a thing. If it went to court, they would be pretty confident that they wll either win, or at least prove unclean hands such that it mostly ends up still being even, but still allowing them to sue third parties. (BTW, IANAL)
  • Lot of corporate fud (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mritunjai (518932) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:24AM (#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 SnowZero (92219) on Thursday September 06, 2007 @03:59AM (#20491837)
    Anyone who has studied filesystems in depth knows about NetApp's WAFL, that NetApp has defended its patents, and that ZFS uses a lot of ideas from WAFL. Questions about ZFS violating WAFL patents came up on LKML months ago [lkml.org], and probably earlier elsewhere. People have been wondering why Linux doesn't have anything like ZFS, and a large part of the answer to that is patents; The Tux2 filesystem would have been a lot like ZFS but was stopped due to patent grumblings. I wish Sun luck in overturning the patents, since that would help everyone, but this lawsuit should not come at a surprise to anyone.
  • by teknopurge (199509)
    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

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