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Patents

Seagate May Sue if Solid State Disks Get Popular 242

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sure-why-not dept.
tero writes "Even though Seagate has announced it will be offering SSD disks of its own in 2008, their CEO Bill Watkins seems to be sending out mixed signals in a recent Fortune interview 'He's convinced, he confides, that SSD makers like Samsung and Intel (INTC) are violating Seagate's patents. (An Intel spokeswoman says the company doesn't comment on speculation.) Seagate and Western Digital (WDC), two of the major hard drive makers, have patents that deal with many of the ways a storage device communicates with a computer, Watkins says. It stands to reason that sooner or later, Seagate will sue — particularly if it looks like SSDs could become a real threat.'"
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Seagate May Sue if Solid State Disks Get Popular

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  • by haaz (3346) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:11AM (#22845134) Homepage
    we better sue to stop it, FAST!
    • by njfuzzy (734116) <ian&ian-x,com> on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:19AM (#22845210) Homepage
      To be fair, it seems like their plan is to sue to get a piece of it, via technology that they really did create. It wouldn't be very profitable just to stop progress.
      • by jav1231 (539129) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:23AM (#22845258)
        What are the odds that their patent simply contains the phrase: "A mechanism for storing or recreating data created on a computer for later retrieval."

        (Slowly I put the freshly printed page down...)

      • Couldn't they just remind the companies that they own the patents and that usage will come at a certain price? This way the consumer is happy and Seagate is happy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by falconwolf (725481)

        To be fair, it seems like their plan is to sue to get a piece of it, via technology that they really did create. It wouldn't be very profitable just to stop progress.

        They, Seagate and Western Digital, can get a piece of it by releasing their own flash drives instead of suing others.

        Falcon
    • by trickonion (943942) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:23AM (#22845254) Homepage
      One of my complaints about patents as they currently are.
      Either they are violating your patents (sue), or they're not (don't sue).
      You dont get to sit there and wait and wait until they make gobs of money in case 1.
      So seagate, are they violating your patent? If so, proof please, if not, you yield all rights in case they are found to at a later date
      • Confusion (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:42AM (#22845448)

        So seagate, are they violating your patent? If so, proof please, if not, you yield all rights in case they are found to at a later date
        I think you may be confusing patents with trademarks. Trademarks must be actively defended, where I believe patents on the other hand can be sat on for awhile.
        • Re:Confusion (Score:5, Interesting)

          by wizardforce (1005805) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:55AM (#22845588) Journal
          He has a point though, patents aren't encouraging innovation, they're the club companies use to beat each other over the head. Not being aware of infringement of a patent is one thing, waiting for a competitor to use something vaguely similar to something you patented and using that to destroy any competition is quite another. Vague patents that can be applied across all iterations of a technology shouldn't exist for this very reason.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by billcopc (196330)
            Patent abuse will be irrelevant in a few years when the U.S. economy finally collapses. All the lawsuits are only accelerating this process, siphoning money away from the manufacturers and producers that used to make the country tick.
        • The point of this was to protect the inventor. So I can pattent a technology then I realize 5 years later when I purchased something I notice that it is infringing on my pattent. But this is a case of abuse of the law. Lets wait their and let our IP Dammages add up and then relly sue them for a lot of money. Vs. Oh they used our patent technology we should sue them to get them to stop, or insure I get part of the deal.
        • Re:Confusion (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jmauro (32523) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:34AM (#22846126)
          If someone is violating your patent, you know it and don't do anything; you'll lose in court. Rambus lost big this way when RSDRAM was clobbered in the market by DDR SDRAM. Rambus knew DDR SDRAM was violating their patents before it made its way to market and did nothing hoping to use lawsuits at a later time if RSDRAM was losing. The courts slapped them around for bit for fun and then said DDR SDRAM was in the clear.

          If someone is violating your patent you need to sue now. Suing later just makes your job much, much harder. Especailly with the CEO of your company saying things like were said in the article.
        • No, patents can be subject to laches [wikipedia.org] and acquiescence [wikipedia.org]as well...

          One thing to consider if you become aware that someone is infringing your patent is the doctrine of laches. Under this doctrine, if you wait too long to sue for infringement after becoming aware of the infringement, and the accused infringer suffered material prejudice due to your delay, then the accused infringer may have a defense to the charges of infringement.

          (Pienkos, JT. The Patent Guidebook p. 86)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mgblst (80109)
        You are right, but the problem is that it can take a lot of money and time to find out if someone is violating your patent. How do you examine the techniques that other companies use to build there products? Or examine each chip in the hdd to see if they are violating some process of your own? There is no point in doing this to a small company or unimportant technology, but when there is a lot of money to be made, suddenly it becomes quite important.
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:16AM (#22845864) Journal
        There's been a slight fix in recent years. If you wait-and-sue, you may not claim any damages that occurred between your first discovering that the patent was being infringed and your initiation of the suit. That makes this announcement very good news for anyone infringing Seagate's patents, because they can take this article into court in a few years and immediately have any damages between now and the date they received the suit dropped. If they lose, then they will only have to pay damages that occurred after the case started and before today.
        • by Bobb Sledd (307434) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:50PM (#22847356) Homepage
          No, it doesn't work that way. The way you describe would seem more logical, but these *are* patents we're talking about.

          Damages start to accrue when the infringer is "put on notice" by the patent-holder. This can be done one of several ways, if you are the patent-holder:

          1. Send a notice by mail (registered of course) to the manufacturer citing the patent(s) you hold, and claiming that they are infringing. At this point you could offer to license your patent, tell them to cease production and stop selling the item, or demand a settlement offer (and still shut them down or license the patent).

          2. Mark your own products with the granted patent numbers. Usually something like "This product is covered by US patents 5,205,321 and 5,255,555." Although some manufacturers just put a list of patent numbers only on the product. Sometimes you will see a product that says "Patent pending." This does nothing. It might scare folks out of infringing, but I could write that and have no patent at all. No damages would accrue, and that is not "putting them on notice."

          3. If the manufacturer inadvertently discovers that they are infringing the patent, then the damages begin accruing then. (Of course, proving that they knew when they knew is another matter entirely).

          But you could really screw a manufacturer over by telling them about this article and showing them the patents. Essentially you would be doing the work of "putting them on notice" for Seagate.

          Many manufacturers have several strategies for this problem:

          1. On release of the product, they do a "patent scrub." This allows the inventors to file patents protecting this product. During the patent scrub, they are asked about any prior art or other patents that would limit the claims for this product. Often, though, during the prior art search, a patent claiming the exact product is found. Now the manufacturer must make a decision to either a) stop manufacturing/using/selling, b) risk infringement (with treble damages), c) contact the inventor for possible licensing.

          2. Purposely don't do a prior art search. This way you won't turn up any patents accidentally. Sometimes it might be a good idea to save several dollars per sale in an escrow account in case of patent infringement (to easily pay off the patent holder). Then hope there is no product out there that has been patent-marked. If the manufacturer is contacted and "put on notice" by a patent holder, then the manufacturer can stop production immediately without any damages.

          Often, however, a manufacturer could go a complete product cycle while unknowingly infringing a patent -- and never get a notice. If they make it all the way through, and then the patent-holder comes later claiming infringement, it is too-bad-so-sad. The manufacturer isn't making or selling that product anymore.

          That's all I know. IAAPP.

      • One of my complaints about patents as they currently are. Either they are violating your patents (sue), or they're not (don't sue). You dont get to sit there and wait and wait until they make gobs of money in case 1. So seagate, are they violating your patent? If so, proof please, if not, you yield all rights in case they are found to at a later date

        Indeed. I would think they could apply to concept of laches [wikipedia.org] to defeat any claims of infringement. Of course, IANAL, so I don't know why this is not invoked.

  • Who was first? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:19AM (#22845208)
    Occasionally I get to thinking that, with 6 billion people coming up with ideas, just because you're the first to send them to the U.S. Patent Office doesn't necessarily mean you're guaranteed the money for those ideas. While people are supposed to do research (including patent research) when inventing, it seems a pain to scour every patent for similarities or places where the patents are so broad, your new invention MIGHT fit into it.

    Is it not possible that someone at Samsung came up with the idea before Seagate, but just didn't patent it? Or we could go by the saying: "Ideas are cheap." Just because you dreamed up an invention, why should you get some of the money for all the work put into implementation, marketing, manufacturing, etc?

    To answer my own question, I suppose it's because otherwise, no one would report their ideas without a working model and/or contract with a production company in place. They'd never be able to make any money off it as it would be used by someone else if made known. I won't go on about how I feel about the mighty dollar/euro/rupee and how it stifles innovation...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:02AM (#22845666)
      DEC sold a line of solid state disks somewhere around 20 years ago, for which they probably had
      patents but by now these will be expired. (They used the rejects from memory fabs, which they
      called "the skim milk of the crop", and worked around all the bad bits to get usable memory that
      was cheap enough to use.) Certainly one can use similar techniques to theirs (likely today with
      better memory) and make solid state disks. No way Seagate or anyone else could patent that (once the
      old technology was pointed out).
    • Re:Who was first? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:24AM (#22845986)

      Is it not possible that someone at Samsung came up with the idea before Seagate, but just didn't patent it? Or we could go by the saying: "Ideas are cheap." Just because you dreamed up an invention, why should you get some of the money for all the work put into implementation, marketing, manufacturing, etc?

      Patents used to be for specific implementations, not the ideas behind it wholesale as no one back then seriously thought you should have a monopoly or could even own an entire idea.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tzhuge (1031302)

      If I remember correctly, under the US patent system, the first one to come up with the idea gets the patent. In some other places, first one to file gets the patent.

      So, I believe if you keep something a trade secret and someone else tries to patent that technology, you can acquire the patent by demonstrating you had the idea first.

    • I can answer your questions.

      Inventors (aka company engineers) typically ARE NOT supposed to research patents when inventing. That generally creates too much liability for the company if they were to find something interesting. Most companies have a legal department designed to handle patent searching anyway. They are usually technically-minded people who are also in the legal field. As a former IP paralegal, I really would rather the engineer NOT do patent searches unless asked.

      6 Billion people, but how
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SydShamino (547793)

      Is it not possible that someone at Samsung came up with the idea before Seagate, but just didn't patent it?

      If that's true, and Samsung could prove it, then Samsung could and would be awarded the patent instead. US law awards patents to "first to invent", not "first to file".

      This is incidentally in the works to be changed. The rest of the world uses "first to file" and it is claimed that the change would reduce the paperwork required to approve patents. (Like we need more patents, sheesh.)

  • by Coopjust (872796) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:19AM (#22845214)

    He's convinced, he confides, that SSD makers like Samsung and Intel (INTC) are violating Seagate's patents. (An Intel spokeswoman says the company doesn't comment on speculation.) Seagate and Western Digital (WDC), two of the major hard drive makers, have patents that deal with many of the ways a storage device communicates with a computer, Watkins says. It stands to reason that sooner or later, Seagate will sue - particularly if it looks like SSDs could become a real threat.


    Yeah, personally I'd like to see some actual specific patents rather than a CEO full of hot air making baseless threats. I'm sure Seagate has patents on storage device communication, but this article offers no insight on how SSD makers could be infringing. This is like the crazy patent claims Microsoft made against Linux (what was that? 184 alleged patents? More?) Examples would be nice.

    Anyhow, flash prices may be dropping, but I don't see SSDs gaining majority marketshare within the next 5 years. Developers get lazy, cameras get more mega pixels, more people need digital video. Spinning disks are still massively cheaper per GB than SSDs, and unless the price were to drop dramatically, hard disks will still have the edge to keep the throne. Laptops may see SSDs sooner due to power, but I'd imagine that one way to forestall the inevitable victory of SSD would be more intelligent caching and a larger onboard cache for hard drives.

    Anyhow, Seagate is worrying about market dominance, and the Seagate CEO makes vague threats that the lawyers at Intel and Samsung probably laughed off. Not that newsworthy in my opinion. Specific patents or litigation would be very notable though.
    • by qoncept (599709) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:25AM (#22845278) Homepage
      I think you'll see SSD gain huge market share in the next 3 years. Magnetic disks will still prevail where there are huge storage needs through at least the next 5 years, but flash based storage will be cheaper and faster for storage capacities that you need to run your computer normally. I picture Dell selling computers with a 128gb flash based drive, and a 1tb magnetic drive. Laptops will be SSD exclusively.
      • by name*censored* (884880) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:55AM (#22845586)
        Good point, especially since storage capacity is rapidly becoming more-than-enough for Joe User, just as processing power has (Web Browsing and word processing isn't exactly power-hungry). Some of you might reply "what about videos/video servers?", but (unfortunately) most NORMAL people don't have things like that - and for those of us who do, there's always RAID. It's only a matter of time before the extra-storage-for-less-money that magnetic media offers simply isn't enough to make it a better choice than SSD.
      • by hairyfeet (841228)
        That is why I don't understand all this talk of either or.Why not both? Why not a cheap 8-20Gb SSD for the OS in my desktop/laptop,and a good old fashioned fat hard drive for when I need the space? It seems like it would be really easy,especially for laptops,where you could have an "ultra power saver" mode that only runs the SSD along with a "multimedia" mode where I have 300-700Gb of hard drive space for my movies and games.It would also make both laptops and desktops cooler and more efficient as you would
        • by timeOday (582209) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:38PM (#22847156)

          That is why I don't understand all this talk of either or.Why not both? Why not a cheap 8-20Gb SSD for the OS in my desktop/laptop,and a good old fashioned fat hard drive for when I need the space?
          Hard drive capacity hasn't been growing nearly as fast as solid state capacity for the last several years. HDDs may lose even their capacity advantage towards the end of that 5-year window.
    • /me points at the date

      Wouldn't it look good on the quarterly if the stock price spiked toward the end? :)

      And yes, likely Seagate and WD have a lot of IP that they have inter licensed or at least have an informal non-aggression pact about suing each other over (kinda like amd and intel), whether any of it is current in these days of industry wide standards like SATA, SAS, SMART etc is another thing entirely.

      When it gets to the courts, THATS when it will be worth reporting on.
    • by Znork (31774)
      I'd imagine that one way to forestall the inevitable victory of SSD would be more intelligent caching and a larger onboard cache for hard drives.

      Actually I'd suggest they play their strengths rather than their weakness. Disks are never going to compete with flash on seek times. They'd be better off dumping the entire 'speed' thing to flash and moving backwards to slower rotational speeds and vastly larger platter area. Can you imagine 5 1/4 inch disks with todays data density?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by houstonbofh (602064)
        Actually I'd suggest they play their strengths rather than their weakness. Disks are never going to compete with flash on seek times. They'd be better off dumping the entire 'speed' thing to flash and moving backwards to slower rotational speeds and vastly larger platter area. Can you imagine 5 1/4 inch disks with todays data density?

        This sounds like the mythical "near line storage" that tapes ceased to be years ago... A 5.25 full hight 3200rpm drive would be reasonably cheap, very big, quiet and power
        • by rrohbeck (944847)

          This sounds like the mythical "near line storage" that tapes ceased to be years ago... A 5.25 full hight 3200rpm drive would be reasonably cheap, very big, quiet and power conserving. Not all that fast, but that is the point of near line storage.
          I'm involved with disk based nearline and backup storage. Believe me, even 7200 rpm SATA drives are always too slow. Nobody wants a Quantum Bigfoot in there.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by torkus (1133985)
            Haha. I had one of those too.

            I'd have to argue against your statement though for NEAR LINE storage. For real time DB/webserver/boot drive no. For holding an archive of my gigaton of DVDs? I'd go apeshit for a 5TB drive that's quiet, inexpensive and could transfer on the order or 30-40MB/sec. Raid 1 for safety and sanity and you're golden. I don't need 100+MB/sec for watching movies. Vaugely intelligent caching will easily allow multiple read/write streams for HD content within that rough data bandwid
            • by Znork (31774) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:49PM (#22849184)
              For holding an archive of my gigaton of DVDs?

              Exactly the kind of use I had in mind. The huge but very linear datasets where track jumping is minimal that tend to make up the vast bulk of personal storage these days and that will only increase.

              OS, software, databases, etc, need low latency to be 'fast'. Bulk multimedia storage doesn't.

              I'd go apeshit for a 5TB drive that's quiet, inexpensive and could transfer on the order or 30-40MB/sec.

              A 5-10 TB drive would probably be doable today with existing surface density. I dont think you'd lose that much on the transfer rate tho; data rate depends on the surface velocity which remains almost as high due to the increased circumference.

              And, yes, I had a bigfoot too. It's not something you want to put your OS on; then again, as noted, flash might be the best thing to put that on whatever you do to disk speed. Personally I have most my OS cached in actual RAM on my workstations in combination with the RAM on my iSCSI storage servers. But it's not that part that causes most issues; it's finding actual space for storing the ever increasing amount of mythtv recordings...
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by rrohbeck (944847)
                This all assumes that your file system never gets fragmented. But sooner or later it will. We have plenty of throughput if you look at the linear transfer rates (especially since we're running large RAIDs anyway) but after a couple of weeks or months of runtime the drives really start to seek, especially if the end user crammed the system full.
    • This is like the crazy patent claims Microsoft made against Linux (what was that? 184 alleged patents? More?) Examples would be nice.

      I know this is SORT OF off topic, and I am by no means on Microsoft's side in their Patent-War-On-Linux, but I CAN give you an example (albeit stupid):

      Microsoft's patent on Long File Names on FAT/FAT32. Like it or not, it is there. To make matters worse, the Official Microsoft spec [washington.edu] has bunches of code snippets that it seems a lot of developers never care to rewrite. They ev
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by znerk (1162519)

      ... I'd imagine that one way to forestall the inevitable victory of SSD would be more intelligent caching and a larger onboard cache for hard drives...

      Oh, so the way to fight these IC devices is by adding more IC devices to the spinning disks? Oh, I know! We can slowly phase out the platters, and go to a fully IC device! That'll keep us from going to a fully IC device!

      Sorry, that fails the logic test. Seems to me that spinning platters are on their way out. Welcome to the solid state world.

    • Anyhow, flash prices may be dropping, but I don't see SSDs gaining majority marketshare within the next 5 years.

      SSDs are fast already, and getting faster quicker. Except for the unfortunate problem with wear that wear-leveling isn't really solving as well as some would have you believe, an SSD with suitable capacity for a majority of users - especially business users - at an acceptable price with much higher performance may easily be here within a year.

      And if they could solve the write wear problem wit

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by torkus (1133985)
        2006 called, they want their SSD back.

        Wear leveling works. Period. Do your homework and check back. FYI, a SSD with an acceptible price point (for business/enthusiast/high-end users) and high performance IS HERE NOW.

        I suggest you look at the access times and data transfer rates (especially for small, random reads) on some of the new 64GB-256MG drives floating around. They're a bit shy of the *top end* magnetic disks in linear read but completly BURY them in random read (which constitutes the vast majori
        • by Cecil (37810) on Monday March 24, 2008 @06:00PM (#22851060) Homepage
          The specs on the latest Samsung SSD (if accurate) beat out the fastest magnetic media you can buy: 100MB/Sec read, 80MB/sec write.

          Not really true. Seagate's Cheetah 15K.5 300GB, being (last I checked) the fastest magnetic media you can buy, can easily beat that. It peaks at 135MB/sec. Some other 15,000 rpm drives can post comparable numbers.

          I still agree with your post in general, but that specific statement is untrue.
    • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:14AM (#22845828)

      Laptops may see SSDs sooner due to power, but I'd imagine that one way to forestall the inevitable victory of SSD would be more intelligent caching and a larger onboard cache for hard drives.

      I think you miss the best reason for SSD on laptops. That means with the exception of my fans, the laptop is all solid state. Which means I don't worry as much about moving it around while reading data, or gyroscopic forces. I worry about these things because I don't know excatly how they work, but I 'm sure shaking a spinning disk based drive is bad. And if I don't know, than I will arrogantly (but accurately) say that most people don't know. Hence, selling point.

    • by vertinox (846076) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:25AM (#22845992)
      Yeah, personally I'd like to see some actual specific patents rather than a CEO full of hot air making baseless threats. I'm sure Seagate has patents on storage device communication, but this article offers no insight on how SSD makers could be infringing

      I think its all hot air or at least is trying to gauge Intel's and Samsung's reaction because he's not threatening some small time business here. Intel probaly had a large team of persons compiling new patents on a daily basis and if push came to shove in court Intel would counter with their own set of patents along with Samsung's team and then Toshiba and IBM might jump in and the proverbial MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) ICBM's filled with patent experts will be landing lawsuits left and right at each others door until only the lawyers are left standing.

      So no... Seagate would never want to actually go through with it because they have no idea what patents Intel might have that they could claim that Seagate is currently violating. My hunch is Seagate wants to calm investor fears in the current technology.

      After all, even if Seagate won the war, Intel might just start making mother boards or CPU that have lines of code that say:

      if $HDD_Manufacture = Seagate { do not boot & give error message "Faulty HDD! contact OEM" }
    • Hell no! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:43PM (#22850910)
      Is it just me or do people HATE hard drives? Apart from my own HDD woes, I receive SOS calls from friends and family all the time regarding computer problems caused by failed drives. I know I am not alone when it comes to becoming a tech support hot line for people who find out you work in IT... And from experience I can say that HDDs are the most common cause critical failure and severe stress. Most people don't have backups.

      I am dying for an SSD. It is silent, and rigid, and uses less power. And newer drives are guaranteed to be up to 4 times faster than the current "standard" SSD drives that Dell and Apple put in their laptops (200Mb/s versus 50Mb/s read). If you had the money, you would have no reason NOT to move to SSD, especially if you have a laptop, and more so if you use your computer for work.

      cameras get more mega pixels, more people need digital video
      On the contrary, reading huge files is where SSDs are fastest. Not everyone puts all their video on their pc, and if you do a terabyte drive might be what you need. However, if you wish to edit and process video and burn it onto DVDs then an SSD is exactly what you need to speed up crunch time multi-fold. An SSD for active files and an HDD for mass storage is the way it will be.

      I agree that the low-end computer market will consist of HDDs for a long time to come. HDDs will not go away as long as they provide cost effectiveness. However, once the next generation drives are out and hit the 5USD/GB mark everyone with a buck will want one especially when their IT friends will be all over them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by toddestan (632714)
        I agree that the low-end computer market will consist of HDDs for a long time to come. HDDs will not go away as long as they provide cost effectiveness. However, once the next generation drives are out and hit the 5USD/GB mark everyone with a buck will want one especially when their IT friends will be all over them.

        I wouldn't be so sure with that. Harddrives are mechanically complicated devices, and that establishes a floor for harddrive prices, as it still costs a certain amount to create all the mechanic
  • were originally intended to foster progress, cultural riches, innovation

    and now they are used as perverse tools to squash progress, stifle innovation, and make us culturally impoverished

    not that any of this means there will be a social revolution, but i see the real possibility of a legal revolution. that is, the public simply ignoring the bullshit intellectual property lawyers invent in order to justify their existence

    dear intellectual property lawyers: you suck. your entire field is becoming a farce. you write and interpret and enforce law that does not serve society, it only serves your field. i propose a mutiny and jettison of the whole lot of you useless parasites
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:20AM (#22845222) Journal
    Can you sue about something so basic? I mean what about the guy that programed the Ramdisk.com DOS program that would let you use RAM as a drive? Why wouldn't that qualify as well?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by downix (84795)
      Or the Amiga OS, which has used a RAMDISK since 1985?
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:37AM (#22845394) Journal
      The gap of difference between the ramdisk and SSD is wide enough to say that the 'inventions' are different even though the idea is as vastly different as say the colors on new Honda Accords in the dealer's parking lot. In such cases I am against allowing patents for something that is an extension of existing technology unless the differences are vast. Okay, here is a hard drive interface XYZ. No patent should be allowed on other hard drive interfaces unless they are vastly different, different enough to cause the obsoleting of the previous work, or compete directly with it to split the market.

      Have you ever noticed how a lot of new cars look pretty much the same? Hard drive interfaces are a lot like that if you allow anyone to patent minor differences. Oh, but hard drive interface ABC uses blue connectors instead of grey. Minor differences and logical extensions of existing patented inventions are things that make for bs patents. SSD is an enhancement to existing technology, NOT some "OMG, how did they think of that" technology. Back in '92 people were talking about that.

      Logical extension of existing things: email on wireless devices, methods to store data on a computer, using RAM to replace the mechanical magnetic materials in hard drives, and on and on
  • Innovation... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by downix (84795) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:20AM (#22845226) Homepage
    When companies cannot innovate, they litigate. They work hard to slow down the market so that they can catch up.
  • by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:21AM (#22845230) Journal

    Seagate May Sue if Solid State Disks Get Popular

    Seagate sold me 4 of their stupid Maxtorgates (drives from the former maxtor factory) that failed immediately - and most of the replacements ALSO failed immediately.

    The won't give me the address to send them the legal notice so I can sue their sorry asses off.

    Their Indian tech support said "we can't do that!"

    Get me the address - I want to sue on behalf of everyone who bought brand-new drives and had to pay the shipping to get replacements.

    • by Coopjust (872796) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:25AM (#22845276)
      It's part of the warranty terms with the shipping.

      Anyhow, the address is: 920 Disc Dr
      Scotts Valley, CA 95066-4544


      Disc Drive. Ugh.
      • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:42AM (#22845456)
        That's the old address. The new address is 920 Solid State Dr.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tomhudson (43916)
        Unfortunately, that's not the address for serving a notice of suit and motion for judgment. They refused flat out to give it to me.
        • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:24PM (#22846912)
          Unfortunately, that's not the address for serving a notice of suit and motion for judgment. They refused flat out to give it to me.

          And if not giving you my address is all it took to keep you from suing me, then I wouldn't give you my address either.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by NormalVisual (565491)
          According to the state of California, Seagate Technology's agent for service is:

          C T CORPORATION SYSTEM
          818 WEST SEVENTH ST
          LOS ANGELES, CA 90017

          Looking up CT's record shows this as *their* agent for service:

          JERE KEPRIOS
          C/O C T CORPORAITON SYSTEM
          818 W. SEVENTH STREET
          LOS ANGELES, CA 90017

          I'm pretty sure every state keeps their corporate records online, and these records will always have the designated agent for service given. I don't usually even bother with a company's web site anymore when
    • Add me to the list when you do.
    • Unless those Maxtor drives were doing the click of death... I suggest you get a multimeter to your power supply for over/under voltage.

      Thermal issues may come into play here.

      If the firmware/serial numbers were near the same than it was probably a batch/fab issue.

      (Former HD recover tech that had to deal with pallets of failed Maxtor drives.)
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:21AM (#22845234) Journal
    Quote article one:

    "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

    Since we're now getting companies suing to prevent advances in the useful arts using powers granted through patent legislation, can we now find that contemporary patent law is a violation of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution?

    And, yes, I'm aware that there's a lot of other stuff going on our federal govt. that's probably a violation of the letter and spirit of the constitution.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by reebmmm (939463)
      Even though you're marked redundant, I'll respond.

      It's not unconstitutional because patents are granted to the inventors. You'll never see a business name in the inventor field of a patent--as, compared to say, the rest of the world where entities are regularly listed as the inventor.

      Instead, patents, and in some senses a patent application, are treated like any other piece of personal property. That means that the owner can sell all or some part of the rights in that patent. Companies end up with ownership
    • by superwiz (655733)

      Since we're now getting companies suing to prevent advances in the useful arts using powers granted through patent legislation, can we now find that contemporary patent law is a violation of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution?

      They are not threatening to sue to prevent advances. They are threatening to sue those who would commercialize on advances documented in their patents without paying them the royalties on those patents. Without patents all hardware would be commoditized. And that would mean the lowest quality players (the cut-throats) would always be the standard setters. Don't confuse business-method patents with patents on actual engineering innovations.

    • by OakLEE (91103)
      First, I agree with you completely. What Seagate is considering is BS of the highest degree and likely a perversion of the Founders' original intent. That said, having studied the subject a little, I'd like to point out some countervailing issues that everyone here seems to be ignoring.

      What seems to be riling people up is the legal concept of reduction to practice, i.e., the point at which an invention has been deemed sufficiently completed, constructed, or created to warrant patent protection. Currently
  • Poor USAians... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:22AM (#22845240)
    This sounds like a typical software-related patent issue, as they are talking about the communication between the storage device and the computer. So if they sue, and are successful, then the whole world will be using SSD drives, except for poor old USA, stuck with the mechanical devices.
    Now I am pro-patents, but software does not belong in the patent world. This could be the ultimate example of how patents stop innovation and technical progress.
    By the way, I wonder how a SSD hard disk is really different from a standard memory card.
    • There are several scenarios.
      • There are in fact no relevant patents
      • There are but the devices do not infringe
      • There are, Samsung changes the design, might have to pay back royalties but the effects will be limited as Seagate don't have SSD products in the marketplace
      • There are, design can't be changed, they do a deal
      • There are, design can't be changed, Samsung IP lawyers dig up some stuff Seagate is violating somewhere, they do a deal
      • South Korean company buys Seagate

      For Seagate, the issue is to a certain extent

    • Why is this moderated Interesting? It sounds like a complete troll. Software-related patent issue? Maybe. The article is quite vague as to what patents Seagate thinks is being infringed upon (ignoring the fact that the CEO never specifically states that they will sue if SSDs get popular, the article "reasons" that out.) The statement about "communication between the storage device and the computer" is also made by the article, in relation to what patents Seagate (and WDC) have, never specifying whether this
  • Arthur Clarke, in his last interview with IEEE Spectrum [ieee.org] - "I'm often asked why I didn't try to patent the idea of communications satellites. My answer is always, 'A patent is really a license to be sued.' "
  • Make love, not war (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:24AM (#22845270) Homepage Journal
    It would probably be more profitable, and better for PR, if Seagate held private meetings with the other manufacturers to discuss patents and licensing terms. Explaining the issue and offering reasonable terms would bring them serious cash. Weak threats in a public forum seems a lot less productive, unless of course they don't actually have any patents to stand on.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by blakbeard0 (1246212)
      We are currently leveraging the value-added services of our core-competencies to fast track our performance indicators and beat the benchmark in this new paradigm. Our developers are thinking outside the box, so we can see the big picture. It's a win-win. -Seagate PR representative.
    • by superwiz (655733)
      But then how would they advertise on slashdot that they still exist?
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:25AM (#22845284) Homepage
    You will probably never see a major corporation admit that patents are largely become just a form of rent-seeking than this.
  • Well, if they believe people are infringing on their patents now they need to sue now, otherwise later when they decide it's worth suing for, they might get reminded that if they didn't defend their position early on, it's all over.

    But, seriously ... if I treat the storage as a black box, and I stick an interface in front of it which allows me to access it as the same kind of black box, where have I infringed? If I could make accessible storage before, and I still make accessible storage, WTF has actually
    • by mmkkbb (816035)
      Well, if they believe people are infringing on their patents now they need to sue now, otherwise later when they decide it's worth suing for, they might get reminded that if they didn't defend their position early on, it's all over.

      Eh? You're thinking of trademarks.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Eh? You're thinking of trademarks.

        Do patents not have any such obligation? Surely there can't be a blanket opportunity to allow company to produce a product, wait until it gets successful, and then sue to say that someone is infringing.

        Well, maybe not surely with the state of IP laws nowadays.

        The sheer idea that they can basically say that if someone else's product becomes successful we will then start suing is quite offensive to the sensibilities -- something about that just seems plain wrong.

        Cheers

  • Innovation (Score:2, Funny)

    by drooling-dog (189103)
    Just another example of our patent system encouraging innovation...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:31AM (#22845338)
    I wonder, if Seagate successfully sued for patent infringements, how much would they actually get? I mean, if the judgment were for $30 million, they may only see $29,296,875 of it.
    • Depending on which side of the box you're reading, a thousand dollars may either equal $1000 or $1024, whatever is more convenient for us.
  • by (H)elix1 (231155) * <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:35AM (#22845372) Homepage Journal
    Years back, Gigabyte released a RAM based SATA drive - the iRAM. This [google.com] is why folks were excited about it - just honking fast. It had limitations, however. 4x1G max capacity per drive, used (relatively spendy)DDR1 RAM, and apparently did not work nicely in a RAID-0 config when trying to bump the storage capacity. Still, RAM rather than flash is what I was looking for as a primary OS drive.

    The next generation of IRAM [techpowerup.com] fixed my major pain point - allowing dirt cheap DDR2 RAM and allowing 8G max storage per drive. ... but it never released... (if anyone here knows of such a device, please post or email) Other drives are on the market, but they want 4 figure price tags. I don't get it. For those of us who can deal with having a hard drive that could 'evaporate' if it ran out of juice for one reason or another (disk images)...trading performance for the hassle... why did the DDR2 drives never make it out? Seagate wielding the patent stick would explain much.
  • by wobedraggled (549225) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:39AM (#22845410) Homepage
    We are gonna wait till it's popular, then sue. ----WTF is that, it's greed. Much like Gibson suing everyone and their mom's now that Guitar Hero is a big thing, if you have a right to something, bring it up as soon as it happens, not when you think you can maximize cash. Why is that practice even legal?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ...actively practiced for 50+ years or longer. And it pissed people off back then as much as it does today. All that has changed is the length of time you can sit on your patent before wielding it, to avoid its effective nullification by Doctrine of Latches.

      And BTW, Gibson's patent from 1999 does actually seem to cover the Guitar Hero game's "system and method of a simulated musical performance". Blame the USPTO and the current patent laws, not Gibson here, because Gibson is following the patent law pretty
  • by realmolo (574068) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:39AM (#22845424)
    Those are 2 companies that have VAST patent portfolios, I'm sure. Especially Intel.

    I imagine that Seagate is violating some Intel and/or Samsung patents, in one obscure and stupid way or another. Seriously, Seagate doesn't have the juice to take on those 2 companies. Never mind that if Seagate really decides to start some shit with their hard-drive patents, I imagine that IBM will get involved, since they own most of the patents on the basic technology of hard drives. And we all know how IBM deals with people that sue them- they take no prisoners.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:43AM (#22845460) Homepage

      I imagine that Seagate is violating some Intel and/or Samsung patents, in one obscure and stupid way or another. Seriously, Seagate doesn't have the juice to take on those 2 companies.

      And, therein lies the rub with patents.

      The big players can basically play "Mutually Assured Destruction" and reach agreements where they don't sue one another. There can be no little players, and no new entrants without a huge barrier.

      How does this foster innovation and moving the state of the art forward?

      Cheers
  • Where is Intel? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:49AM (#22845528)
    Where is Intel in all this? They make the south bridge and MCH chips that talk to SATA drives. Are only Seagate and WD drives allowed to connect to them? Is Intel beholden to patent holders on the SATA interface? Why not connect future drives through USB 2/3 if SATA is patent encumbered?
    • by kindbud (90044)
      Why not connect future drives through USB 2/3 if SATA is patent encumbered?

      Because USB drive interfaces are just SATA or IDE interfaces with a USB bridge.
  • ... but I am already boycotting them for selling products that fail to communicate properly with the computer. Well, it's more like buying something else (WDC) that works better (especially in Linux). It's too bad that this abuse of the patent system leads to high costs of improving on the mistakes, screw ups, and often incompetency of others.

  • by webword (82711) on Monday March 24, 2008 @10:56AM (#22845600) Homepage
    Toshiba preps 128GB solid-state notebook drive [eetimes.com] -- "While manufacturers plow ahead with notebook-targeted SSDs, questions are arising as to whether they deliver a performance boost significant enough to justify the higher cost."

    So...

    There's also an issue related to ROI.
  • What I'd love to see is Seagate trying to examine their competitor's products in order to prove that they're really infringing. Their competitors invoke the DMCA, hilarity ensues.
  • Being Slashdot I know a lot of people are just frothing at the mouth at the mere mention of the word "patent" but settle down. For starters, Seagate's CEO says he is "convinced" that their patents are being infringed -- offering no evidence at this point. So for now it's just bullshit posturing that may or may not materialize into anything. He could just be hedging his bets and making it look like Seagate has plans to protect their business to placate investors. With SSDs being an emerging technology no
    • And what if it turns out that they do have a legitimate claim on patent infringement?

      The odds of this are exactly 0. Zero. There is nothing that could be done in a SSD that would be unique enough and have cost Seagate enough money to research that would justify a patent. If the patent is something ridiculously obvious, then indeed I'm sure there is something in every storage device that uses it. Big deal, unless you think "legitimate" means "whatever the lazy patent examiners allowed to be patented".

  • Sad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:07AM (#22845730) Homepage Journal
    This is just sad. It just screams one thing at me:

    If we fail to keep our heads above the water by making good products, we'll sue.

    And this time, it's not just some slashdotter seeing ghosts where there may not be any: this is straight from the horse's mouth.

    If they think their competitors should not be using certain technologies, they should negotiate with them to come to acceptable agreements. If that fails, they can sue. Threatening to sue if their competitors' products become successful is...evil.
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      The real problem is that Seagate and a couple of other companies have spent the last 20 years or so moving from the ST-506 protocol to where we are today with EIDE and SATA. A huge investment has been made in deveoping this technology for efficiently communicating with a storage device.

      Now, some other manufacturers who haven't participated in this development are able to swoop in at the last minute and take advantage of the latest developments. No R&D spending was necessary. Someone else did the work
  • If you (should reasonably) know that an infringing item is on the market, you must defend you patent immediately or lose rights to it. If Seagate suspects that the SSDs are infringing, they should be required to move now and not be allowed wait until the competitive item is successful.
  • by martyb (196687) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:20AM (#22845916)

    The enemy of my enemy ... is my friend.

    If Seagate pushes hard enough, they may find this out the hard way. They may be an 800lb gorilla in the storage market. But, even a large ape does not like getting stung by a thousand bees, and Seagate is waving a stick around a number of bee hives, in my view of things.

    What if, faced with a potential lawsuit from Seagate, we were to see Intel, Samsung, TI, etc., get together and develop a new standard that bypasses Seagate's IP. They could license it to each other for next to nothing... except to Seagate... no soup for you. Sure, they'd like to be safe from a backlash in the spinning media world. But, given the rapid price drops on SSD storage, at some point the SSD media will be "cheap enough" for primary storage and spinning media would be relegated to 2nd tier, archival storage. Intel certainly has the smarts and the fabrication facilities to develop a competitor to anything Seagate might come up with.

    Here's an honest question I've been wondering about for a while. Why don't we use GigE or 10GigE to communicate with storage? I imagine there's more overhead than with the currently used protocols, but how much are we talking about here? I'm more of a software than hardware guy, though I know a little about the different layers in the ISO model. *waves hands*. Build in a router on the motherboard, have a port for talking to the outside world and a few ports for talking to storage. Economy of scale and the hardware would be dirt cheap... right? Since it seems like an obvious idea, I'm sure I'm missing something. Would someone who knows these things care to elaborate? Tnx!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fifirebel (137361)

      Here's an honest question I've been wondering about for a while. Why don't we use GigE or 10GigE to communicate with storage? I imagine there's more overhead than with the currently used protocols, but how much are we talking about here? I'm more of a software than hardware guy, though I know a little about the different layers in the ISO model. *waves hands*. Build in a router on the motherboard, have a port for talking to the outside world and a few ports for talking to storage. Economy of scale and the hardware would be dirt cheap... right? Since it seems like an obvious idea, I'm sure I'm missing something. Would someone who knows these things care to elaborate? Tnx!

      Because the hard drives (and SSDs) throughput is already dwarfed by current wire speeds. The best hard drive you can get can push 1 Gbps (that's bits per second) while SATA and SAS can deliver 3 Gbps. Parallel SCSI can deliver 3.6 Gbps. And when you really need a SAN, there are already iSCSI and fibre channel.

  • Is This Legal? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by immcintosh (1089551) <slashdot@ianmcintos h . org> on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:33AM (#22846104) Homepage
    I was under the impression that with intellectual property, if you were aware of a violation you HAD to pursue its resolution immediately, or else risk foregoing legal protections. The point of which is to prevent just what's being suggested here--waiting for a technology to become widespread specifically in order to profit more from the eventual suit. Am I missing something here? Any IP lawyers want to chime in on how this could be legit?
  • F.U. Seagate (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zerofoo (262795) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:38AM (#22846178)
    Back in the day, if a hard drive failed under warranty, you sent it back (at your expense) waited a week, and then you got a replacement drive in return.

    OR

    If you needed a drive really fast, the manufacturer would advance ship you a drive (2-3 days instead of a week) if you gave them a credit card number so they could place a hold on the card for the amount of the drive. Then you returned the drive to them in their packaging (again at your expense).

    Recently I was surprised to find out that Seagate no longer does advanced exchanges for free - they charge $20 for an advanced exchange. If that doesn't smell like greed, I don't know what does.

    YOUR drive failed under YOUR warranty, and now I need to pay for the privilege of an advanced exchange. F.U. Seagate. You used to care about your customers, not any more.

    This threat of suing if solid state disks become popular just confirms my belief that Seagate has lost their way. They no longer care about producing the best technology and making their customers happy. Now it's about profit at the expense of everyone else.

    Hey Seagate, you may not have heard but there are a few companies in the hard drive business besides you. Those companies will get my (and my company's business) from now on.

    -ted

Wishing without work is like fishing without bait. -- Frank Tyger

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