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Patents Sun Microsystems

Sun To Seek Injunction, Damages Against NetApp 183

Posted by kdawson
from the file-systems-want-to-be-free dept.
Zeddicus_Z writes to note that Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz has outlined Sun's response to Network Appliance's recent patent infringement lawsuit over ZFS: "As a part of this suit, we are requesting a permanent injunction to remove all of their filer products from the marketplace, and are examining the original NFS license — on which Network Appliance was started. In addition... we will be going after sizable monetary damages. And I am committing that Sun will donate half of those proceeds to the leading institutions promoting free software and patent reform... [Regarding NetApp's demands in order to drop its existing case against Sun:] ...[to] unfree ZFS, to retract it from the free software community, and to limit ZFS's allowable field of use to computers — and to forbid its use in storage devices."
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Sun To Seek Injunction, Damages Against NetApp

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  • Try to do something new,or innovative, and out come the lawsuits. Only the megacorps like Sun can really compete in the minefield that is software anymore. If we can get rid of the foolish software patents, and get copyright back into a reasonable time frame, maybe the US can get back to being an innovator, instead of merely a lawyers paradise.
  • I understand what you mean by that post, however this really isn't one of the cases of SUN being the bad guy. It's someone thinking up an idea, patenting it, doing nothing with it, then suing when they think that someone has infringed on their patent. It's utter foolishness and does not contribute to the betterment of technology. All people like these idiots do is make lawyers rich and keep the little guy with a great idea and no money for a patent or the time to make sure someone hasn't already patented his/her idea terrified of going anywhere with it. Cases like this can only be fought by huge corps such as SUN and that to me is a very sad state of affairs indeed. The problems with the patent and copyright system really underscore the reason why the U.S. is controlled by the megacorp, only a megacorp can defend themselves from the slavering legions. As of this very moment if I were to have some novel idea come into my head for a software system the only recourse I would have is to sell it to a huge corp because no matter how great it was or how much people loved it if someone had patented that idea and chose to sue me for it I do not have the means to fight it.
  • Re:old news. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:15AM (#21252859)
    For me, quite a lot. I'm wanting to start up a software house some time in the next year. These patent wars frankly wory me. I don't know if I'd be that keen on entering the US market, since some shark will no doubt try to take a bite if my product is seen to be making money. Better to work in Europe and the far east methinks.

    Yeah, software piracy is a tad rife there, but I'd rather be strategising against pirates (services instead of software payment etc), than have my company gutted because of some shitbar patent suit in texas.
  • by onion2k (203094) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:35AM (#21252925) Homepage
    What NetApp did was to patent a method of mapping data in a file system. What they should have been made to do by the USPTO was patent their implementation of a method of mapping data in a file system. It's a subtle but important difference.

    To draw an analogy to something a little more obvious we should look to the drug industry. Many people believe that patenting drugs shouldn't be allowed, what should be allowed are patents on the method of making the drug. If someone can think of a way to get the same end result using a different process they should be allowed to do just that. Having a system that allows companies to hold patents on what amount of sequences of data is silly.

    The same should go for software. It's fine to patent a specific implementation of some code, but it's not fine for that patent to cover every conceivable way of achieving the same end result.
  • by Forge (2456) <kevinforge AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:35AM (#21252929) Homepage Journal
    Actually I was just trying to be funny.

    The reality is that the mega patent holders. IBM Sun and even Microsoft tend not to run out and file patent lawsuits to stop innovation but rather as a defensive measure to protect their business from litigious none innovative parasites.

    NetApp isn't the worst of the bunch since they still have viable products on the market. Unfortunately they are so panicked over the possibility that we may use PC Servers with huge piles of massive SATA drives at a total cost way below the stuff they are selling.

    If only they were able to come up with new products when someone else innovates enough to make what they are selling today a commodity.

    So no offence to Sun but hey we should be able to make fun of our friends too.
  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:36AM (#21252935) Homepage
    Why do you want to design a system to 'protect people who do something new'? Surely the system should be run to promote progress in science and the useful arts, as specified in the US Constitution?

    Maybe it does promote progress to have patents on software, but it's not a foregone conclusion; study some of the arguments [mit.edu] (there may also be a good site arguing in favour of swpats, but I don't know of one) and decide what works best in the public interest, rather than just assuming that any measure in favour of 'inventors' is going to help the public.
  • by mpe (36238) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @08:43AM (#21253219)
    That's how patents are supposed to work: in return for the temporary protection of a patent, you have to reveal exactly how your invention works in the patent application, so that everyone can copy it once the patent has run out.

    Maybe patent applications should be examined by qualified people to see if they can be implimented using only the information supplied in the application together with that already in the public domain.
  • by DingerX (847589) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @08:56AM (#21253271) Journal
    Very cute. But there's a huge problem here. Let's assume everything that NetApp claims is true: That WAFL contains a bunch of unique ideas that are patent-worthy and protected by patent, and that ZFS infringes on them in a non-trivial manner.

    Okay, so what are you going to do? Sue Sun?

    If so, you'd better hope that there's nothing in Sun's patent portfolio that you're infringing upon. The way software patents have gotten these days, it's a pretty fair bet that NetApp runs afoul of at least a few of Sun's 14,000 patents.

    To reassure folks internally, Dave appeals to ignorance:

    "Can you ever remember a Fortune 1000 company being shut down by patents?

    There's always a first time. And maybe that's what it will take to reform the system. While Sun can wave the F/OSS flag as they battle NetApp, they will end up proving a few scary points about the current state of the patent system:

    1) If a company tries to use software patents the way they were intended, it will only be successful against companies smaller than themselves. The big boys will insist on a portfolio exchange; if that fails, one party will end up looking like SCO.
    2) The only way to get money out of the "big infringers" is to have a company with zero liability of patent infringement, such as one with a litigation-based business model.
    3) Software patents are a barrier to entry for small companies, and a perpetual liability.
  • by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:01AM (#21253299) Homepage
    The problem is that "copyright" and the logical extension of "patenting" physical objects are the same thing.

    You don't copyright a stove, because people can't just copy it. You patent it, and now people can't build an identical stove, even if they could build something very stovelike. But with software, you copyright the software, and now people can't copy it. Patenting would, in theory, fulfill the exact same purpose - "you can't build the identical software" - and that's software patents are kind of bizarre and shouldn't even exist.

    Instead, though, patents are being treated as "one step up from copyright" - you can't build an identical stove, and you "can't build software that does the same thing". Which isn't the equivalent of patents at all. It's more the equivalent of a concept monopoly. If software patents were imported right back into the physical world, you'd have people able to put patent on "cars", or "stoves", as an entire class of thing.

    I don't think software patents need to be "fixed". I don't think they need to be "abolished". I think what's necessary is realization that the entire concept of "software patent" doesn't even make sense, and that there really is no parallel with the physical world here.
  • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:42AM (#21253551)
    Lets ignore the whole unverifiable "intermediary" Sun's CEO brought up and lets also ignore Netapp's claim that Sun contacted them 18 months before that post.

    The only real proof Netapp's CEO has provided is an email which states there were demands over one and a half year before December 2006 (so 27 months before that post, can't be the same communication he is talking about unless he doesn't know what he is talking about). Which puts it well before the takeover. Question is, did Sun push for them to enter a cross licensing deal after the takeover or was the deal proposed in the email inherited too? Hard to say without knowing the context of the single email provided.

    All I know for sure is who initiated a lawsuit.
  • by robot_love (1089921) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:47AM (#21253579)
    Maybe I just didn't follow you, but I think your drug argument ignores the development/testing cost of making drugs. Imagine Drug Company A spends $500 million developing an AIDS drug and then produces it at $1 a pill and sells it at $2. They must sell 500 million pills to recoup their investment.

    If Drug Company B comes along and manages to produce the pill at $1.50, but didn't have to do the research and regulatory testing, they make money from the start.

    Manufacturing costs are only a small portion of the cost of producing a drug. Allowing another drug company to compete only on manufacturing gives them a tremendous advantage. Patents allow Drug Company A to recoup their investment.

    Your argument conveniently ignores the fantastic risk drug companies face when they develop a new drug. If it doesn't work the way the think it will, they face bankruptcy. Why would anyone take that risk if Joe Blow is going to export production to China and sell at half your price? Clearly patents have a use in this situation.
  • No longer true (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @10:24AM (#21253901)
    What about SpamHause (wasn't it?) that didn't do ANYTHING in the US but were still found guilty in a US court.

    Or Sylkarov, working in USSR for a USSR product THAT WASN'T BEING SOLD IN THE US (deliberately, they took steps not to). Still got banged up.

    The past few years, if it's illegal in the US, it doesn't matter if you aren't in the US.

    And, if you are found guilty, they can take you in if you fly over or stop to change craft in the US (as per UK betting mogul currently doing bird in the US).
  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @10:33AM (#21254049) Journal
    Most of the problems with the patent system right now can be traced to the fact that patent examiners neither have enough time nor the qualifications necessary to make such determinations

    Solution, if you don't have the time to validate a patent, don't issue it. I'm sure if they stopped issuing 90% of patents, there would be a lot more attention focused on this problem.
  • by dlgeek (1065796) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:38PM (#21256445)
    Because the case is as much about PR as money.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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