Seagate Starts Suing Solid State Drive Makers

SeagateLooks like Seagate is starting up the lawsuits against flash memory-based Solid State Drives (SSDs, you know, the new wonderdrives going into a lot of small laptops, such as the MacBook Air or ThinkPad X300).

A few weeks ago, we ran a story Seagate’s CEO and some interesting comments he made in regards to flash-based Solid State Drives (SSD):

Realistically, I just don’t see the flash notebook sell,” Watkins says. “We just don’t see the proposition.”

But in case flash prices continue to plummet and the flash drives really do catch on, Watkins has something else up his sleeve. He’s convinced, he confides, that SSD makers like Samsung and Intel are violating Seagate’s patents.

The New York Time’s is running a story on the lawsuit::

Seagate Technology, the largest maker of computer hard drives, made a pre-emptive strike against an emerging competitor on Monday when it filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing STEC Inc. of patent infringement.

In the suit, Seagate contends that STEC’s solid-state drive products violate four Seagate patents covering how such drives interface with computers.

STEC, based in Santa Ana, Calif., makes solid-state drives for corporations and other large enterprises, a market that Seagate executives have said the company plans to enter this year. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in the Northern District of California.

STEC had this response:

STEC is one of the first companies to build SSDs, having designed, manufactured and shipped SSDs as early as 1994, long before any of the suggested patents were issued to Seagate. Given the effect SSDs are having on the HDD market, STEC believes that Seagate’s lawsuit is completely without merit and primarily motivated by competitive concerns rather than a desire to protect its intellectual property. STEC believes that Seagate’s action is a desperate move to disrupt how aggressively customers are embracing STEC’s Zeus-IOPS technology and changing the balance of power in enterprise storage. Seagate is sending a clear signal that it recognizes STEC as the leader in the SSD business and is attempting to slow down part of the growth that STEC is gaining through its SSD offering, particularly in the enterprise segment. STEC will aggressively pursue its defense to this infringement action.

In addition, STEC will also closely examine the patents asserted by Seagate as STEC believes it held such technology including prior patents, dating more than a decade prior to any of Seagate’s patents. Although STEC is in the process of analyzing the claims in this lawsuit, STEC believes that Seagate’s asserted patents pertain to technologies where STEC has years of prior experience and/or patents. STEC has significant patents related to SSD which have been developed through the decades of experience STEC has with developing, manufacturing and shipping SSDs. Beyond that long history, STEC also believes that many of Seagate’s claims are not relevant to SSD. For example, STEC was one of the originators of stacking technology with patents dating back to the mid-1990s, while Seagate’s patent on this matter was issued in 2005.

STEC’s Official Response
New York Times Article

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